One of BLB's favorite gadflies, Bert Ely, was at it again last week (paid subscription required). This time, his incredulity was focused on an FDIC proposal to require the country's largest banks (those with over two million deposit accounts) to implement more "robust" (and expensive) systems for determining more quickly, upon failure of the bank, whether a deposit is inured, uninsured, or partially insured. While Bert concedes that the proposed rule initially burdens only 36 banks, "one could imagine a scenario when this regulation could easily be extended to all banks." "One" could. It's called "trickle down" regulation. The CFPB's "race to the overbearing bottom" is a classic example. Therefore, argues Bert, "all banks" should oppose it.
While Bert criticizes the difficulty and expense (FDIC estimates the 36 banks will have to spend $328 million in system upgrades) of the proposal, his real criticism is that, based on recent history, the "proposed rule bears no relationship to reality."
Inasmuch as the FDIC has had the power (since the enactment of FIDICA in 1991) to protect the uninsured deposits of a failed bank if that was a less costly alternative to letting the uninsured depositors "eat cake," and since the panicked lines of depositors at IndyMac in 2008 encouraged The Care Bair and her successor to favor to overwhelmingly favor protecting all depositors in subsequent failures (in 482 of 512 post-IndyMac failures, Ely asserts), there is little likelihood that the FDIC would not protect all depositors from a public relations standpoint. Moreover, Ely argues, because protecting all depositors usually protects the "franchise value" of the failed bank, acquiring institutions are usually motivated to pay enough for the deposits and non-mortally wounded assets of the failed bank that liquidation and "stiffing" the uninsured depositors is not likely to ever be the least costly alternative.
Bert also argues that liquidation "can be very disruptive to the failed bank's lending and other nondeposit relationships. He cites the 2009 liquidation of New Frontier in Greeley, Colorado, as one instance in which local businesses were negatively impacted. Being familiar with that specific example, I can vouch for the veracity of Ely's opinion. Finally, Bert argues that the FDIC's recent concern with the continuing liquidity of banks (especially large banks) in crisis situations would be hampered by liquidations in which uninsured depositors were not paid, and might induce uninsured (and even insured) depositors in other banks to stage runs (ala IndyMac).
All-in-all, says Bert, this proposal is a bad idea and "the FDIC should kill it."