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October 3, 2022

When the Federal Reserve Fails, The Public Pays the Price; Its Late Friday Announcement Passing Truist’s Deficient Living Will Is a Disservice to the American People

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Dennis M. Kelleher, Co-founder, President and CEO of Better Markets, issued the following statement on the Federal Reserve’s late Friday announcement that (1) it passed Truist’s living will, and (2) it is going to issue guidance on its expectations for living wills for banks greater than $250 billion but are not systemically important:

“Continuing its disreputable practice of releasing important information late on Friday afternoons, apparently intending to avoid news coverage and public scrutiny, the Federal Reserve last Friday delivered good news to Truist Financial and bad news to the American public. First, it announced that Truist passed the assessment of its so-called living will with flying colors even though it appears to be seriously deficient.  Second, it also announced that it will be publishing guidance outlining its ‘expectations’ for banks above $250 billion not branded as ‘systemically important’ that are nonetheless too-big-to-fail, but such guidance will be nonbinding and non-enforceable. When it comes to protecting the U.S. taxpayers, the financial system and the economy, such weak ‘expectations’ are not enough.

“As with previous living will reviews, the banking agencies again failed to disclose any meaningful information to the public on their processes or on their assessment conclusions.  For Truist, they merely listed bullets of high-level ‘aspects where further progress could [be made].’  However, even those deficient disclosures revealed that Truist apparently failed to calculate the critically important liquidity needs of its key subsidiaries and affiliate organizations. Pre-capitalizing and pre-funding key subsidiaries are indispensable pillars of resolution planning because capital and liquidity likely will not be able to be easily moved from one subsidiary to another in periods of stress.

“The Fed should be embarrassed by its ongoing practice of keeping the pubic in the dark about its activities and for its apparent failure to require too-big-to-fail banks to have robust, workable living wills.  When the Fed fails, as it egregiously did in the years before the 2008 crash, the public pays the price.  The public, therefore, has a right to know much more about the Fed’s activities related to systemic stability.  It is long past time for the banking agencies to strengthen their review of living wills and to disclose ample information to the public sufficient to enable oversight and accountability.”

For more information on living wills, see (1) Dennis Kelleher’s September 30, 2022 Op Ed in Barron’s entitled “Regulators Still Aren’t Serious About Ending Too Big to Fail”; (2) Better Markets’ letter to Fed on merger review process needing stronger resolution plans;  and (3) Better Markets’ “Ending Too-Big-To-Fail by Breathing Life into ‘Living Wills.’”

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Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies—including many in finance—to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit www.bettermarkets.org.

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