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Banking

Which banks are too big for their borders? Monsters remain unleashed

Bank chiefs have finally accepted that their hopes of a level regulatory playing field will remain forlorn. US bankers are up in arms about Europe’s treatment of risk-weighted assets. Europe’s banks face a fault line, where they operate internationally but risk being penalized for the relative size of their balance sheets to national GDP. What does the future hold for banks that could be too big for their borders? Peter Lee reports.

Which banks are bursting out of the seams of their national economies?

AS THE CONCLUSION now fast approaches of a period of far-reaching and profound change in regulation of the global banking industry, worries abound that the results will be disappointing and even counter-productive. The manifold failures of a complacently regulated financial system incapable of judging credit or liquidity risk certainly needed to be addressed after the catastrophes of 2008 and 2009. The fear now, though, is that regulators have tried to do too much all at once, that new rules will fail in their key purpose of making the system safer and that inconsistent application by national regulators of rules agreed in principle by G20 governments will unfairly distort the market for financial services in undesirable ways. It is this last worry – the creation of an unlevel playing field – that seems to most vex bank executives from regions that suffered the worst setbacks in the crisis: the US and Europe. In private US bankers throw doubt on European banks’ disclosures of the true levels of their non-performing loans, as well as on their calculations of risk-weighted assets and on national regulators’ willingness to keep them honest.

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