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Fed Proposes New Capital Surcharges for Major U.S. Banks

The Federal Reserve passed a proposal on Tuesday for risk-based surcharges on the most important U.S. banks to the global financial system.
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The Federal Reserve passed a proposal on Tuesday for risk-based surcharges on the most important U.S. banks to the global financial system.

These surcharges would require the eight U.S. banks with $50 billion or more in consolidated assets to maintain an additional capital supply based on the institution's system importance, the Fed said Tuesday. The framework for these charges would be phased in beginning January 2016 through January 2019.

The Fed will now wait for comment on the proposal before officially codifying the rule.

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"This framework would provide incentives to these banking organizations to hold substantially increased levels of high-quality capital as a percentage of their risk-weighted assets. This, in turn, would encourage such firms to reduce their systemic footprint and lessen the threat that their failure could pose to overall financial stability," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in her opening statement at the Tuesday meeting.

The rule would see surcharges ranging from 1 to 4.5 percent based on banks' use of short-term wholesale funding. In other words, the proposal would increase a firm's "capital conservation buffer" by the amount of its surcharge in the form of common equity.

"The proposed rule is an important part of the board's efforts to establish enhanced prudential standards for the most systemic U.S. banking firms and improve the resiliency of these firms," Yellen added.

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The eight U.S. banks subject to the new proposal are JPMorgan, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, State Street and Wells Fargo.

JPMorgan will likely be the only bank that needs to raise more capital to comply with these surcharges, Fed officials indicated.

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In his opening statement at the meeting, Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo explained the proposal would be "another step toward implementation" of the Dodd-Frank Act's section 165. That measure calls for "prudential standards" for financial institutions that become more stringent as the firm becomes more systemically important.

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Tuesday's proposal builds on the framework established by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, although Tarullo said the Fed's proposed surcharge levels are higher than those recommended by that group.

"The Federal Reserve, along with a few like-minded central banks, was an early advocate for the capital surcharges, and we should be pleased that we were eventually able to reach international agreement on this important innovation in international capital standards," Tarullo said.

— CNBC's Hampton Pearson and Matt Cuddy contributed to this report.