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FSOC votes to boost transparency of SIFI reviews

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(Bloomberg) — A panel of U.S. regulators voted to tell companies sooner that it’s considering whether the firms should be deemed a potential risk to the financial system.

The Financial Stability Oversight Council, led by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, voted 10-0 on a conference call today to notify companies earlier than it does now when discussing whether to designate them systemically important, the Treasury Department said in a statement. Such firms are subject to Federal Reserve oversight, which can include tougher capital, leverage and liquidity requirements.

The vote follows criticism from finance industry groups and lawmakers of both major political parties that the council is too secretive. Companies will now be told when they are being analyzed in the second stage of review, possibly months quicker than they are now, in the third and final stage.

The council is “a young organization that, as it grows and matures, must continue to be flexible and adjust its processes as needed to fulfill its mandate,” Lew said in the statement.

The council, or FSOC, also voted to extend by 30 days the period for the industry and public to comment on the panel’s request for input on whether asset managers’ activities could threaten stability. Groups including the American Bankers Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have requested additional time to comment. The new deadline is March 25.

The FSOC’s decision to alert firms earlier raises the question of whether publicly traded companies will have to alert shareholders as soon as the council notifies them. Until now, companies have issued statements when they were told they had reached the third stage of review.

More Dialogue

The council also voted to increase its communication with companies that have already been designated systemically important and are due for annual re-evaluation, the Treasury said.

The FSOC, which also includes Fed Chair Janet Yellen, has designated four nonbank financial companies systemically important — American International Group Inc., Prudential Financial Inc., General Electric Co.’s finance unit and MetLife Inc. MetLife sued the FSOC in a federal court last month to have the decision overturned.

Bank-holding companies with more than $50 billion in assets are supervised by the Fed under the Dodd-Frank law.

In 2013, the FSOC discussed asset managers BlackRock Inc. and Fidelity Investments, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., according to people with knowledge of the matter. The council didn’t have to notify the companies then because it hadn’t reached the third stage of evaluation.


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