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Resolving failure of financial firms: The FRDI Bill explained

October 12th, 2017 No comments

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017 was introduced in Parliament during Monsoon Session 2017.[1]   The Bill proposes to create a framework for monitoring financial firms such as banks, insurance companies, and stock exchanges; pre-empt risk to their financial position; and resolve them if they fail to honour their obligations (such as repaying depositors).  To ensure continuity of a failing firm, it may be resolved by merging it with another firm, transferring its assets and liabilities, or reducing its debt.  If resolution is found to be unviable, the firm may be liquidated, and its assets sold to repay its creditors.

After introduction, the Bill was referred to a Joint Committee of Parliament for examination, and the Committee’s report is expected in the Winter Session 2017.  The Committee has been inviting stakeholders to give their inputs on the Bill, consulting experts, and undertaking study tours.  In this context, we discuss the provisions of the Bill and some issues for consideration.

What are financial firms?

Financial firms include banks, insurance companies, and stock exchanges, among others.  These firms accept deposits from consumers, channel these deposits into investments, provide loans, and manage payment systems that facilitate transactions in the country.  These firms are an integral part of the financial system, and since they transact with each other, their failure may have an adverse impact on financial stability and result in consumers losing their deposits and investments.

As witnessed in 2008, the failure of a firm (Lehman Brothers) impacted the financial system across the world, and triggered a global financial crisis.  After the crisis, various countries have sought to consolidate their laws to develop specialised capabilities for resolving failure of financial firms and to prevent the occurrence of another crisis. [2]

What is the current framework to resolve financial firms? What does the Bill propose?

Currently, there is no specialised law for the resolution of financial firms in India.  Provisions to resolve failure of financial firms are found scattered across different laws.2  Resolution or winding up of firms is managed by the regulators for various kinds of financial firms (i.e. the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for banks, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for insurance companies, and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for stock exchanges.)  However, under the current framework, powers of these regulators to resolve similar entities may vary (e.g. RBI has powers to wind-up or merge scheduled commercial banks, but not co-operative banks.)

The Bill seeks to create a consolidated framework for the resolution of financial firms by creating a Resolution Corporation. The Resolution Corporation will include representatives from all financial sector regulators and the ministry of finance, among others.  The Corporation will monitor these firms to pre-empt failure, and resolve or liquidate them in case of such failure.

How does the Resolution Corporation monitor and prevent failure of financial firms?

Risk based classification: The Resolution Corporation or the regulators (such as the RBI for banks, IRDA for insurance companies or SEBI for the stock exchanges) will classify financial firms under five categories, based on their risk of failure (see Figure 1).  This classification will be based on adequacy of capital, assets and liabilities, and capability of management, among other criteria.  The Bill proposes to allow both, the regulator and the Corporation, to monitor and classify firms based on their risk to failure.

Corrective Action:  Based on the risk to failure, the Resolution Corporation or regulators may direct the firms to take certain corrective action.  For example, if the firm is at a higher risk to failure (under ‘material’ or ‘imminent’ categories), the Resolution Corporation or the regulator may: (i) prevent it from accepting deposits from consumers, (ii) prohibit the firm from acquiring other businesses, or (iii) require it to increase its capital.  Further, these firms will formulate resolution and restoration plans to prepare a strategy for improving their financial position and resolving the firm in case it fails.

While the Bill specifies that the financial firms will be classified based on risk, it does not provide a mechanism for these firms to appeal this decision.   One argument to not allow an appeal may be that certain decisions of the Corporation may require urgent action to prevent the financial firm from failing. However, this may leave aggrieved persons without a recourse to challenge the decision of the Corporation if they are unsatisfied.

Figure 1: Monitoring and resolution of financial firmsFig 1 edited

Sources: The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017; PRS.

 

How will the Resolution Corporation resolve financial firms that have failed?

The Resolution Corporation will take over the administration of a financial firm from the date of its classification as  ‘critical’ (i.e. if it is on the verge of failure.)  The Resolution Corporation will resolve the firm using any of the methods specified in the Bill, within one year.  This time limit may be extended by another year (i.e. maximum limit of two years).   During this period, the firm will be immune against all legal actions.

The Resolution Corporation can resolve a financial firm using any of the following methods: (i) transferring the assets and liabilities of the firm to another firm, (ii) merger or acquisition of the firm, (iii) creating a bridge financial firm (where a new company is created to take over the assets, liabilities and management of the failing firm), (iv) bail-in (internally transferring or converting the debt of the firm), or (v) liquidate the firm to repay its creditors.

If the Resolution Corporation fails to resolve the firm within a maximum period of two years, the firm will automatically go in for liquidation.  The Bill specifies the order of priority in which creditors will be repaid in case of liquidation, with the amount paid to depositors as deposit insurance getting preference over other creditors.

While the Bill specifies that resolution will commence upon classification as ‘critical’, the point at which this process will end may not be evident in certain cases.  For example, in case of transfer, merger or liquidation, the end of the process may be inferred from when the operations are transferred or liquidation is completed, but for some other methods such as bail-in, the point at which the resolution process will be completed may be unclear.

Does the Bill guarantee the repayment of bank deposits?

The Resolution Corporation will provide deposit insurance to banks up to a certain limit.  This implies, that the Corporation will guarantee the repayment of a certain amount to each depositor in case the bank fails.  Currently, the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) provides deposit insurance for bank deposits up to 1 lakh rupees per depositor.[3]  The Bill proposes to subsume the functions of the DICGC under the Resolution Corporation.

[1].  The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017.pdf

[2]. Report of the Committee to Draft Code on Resolution of Financial Firms, September 2016, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017/FRDI%20Bill%20Drafting%20Committee%20Report.pdf

[3]. The Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, 1961, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Financial%20Resolution%20Bill,%202017/DICGC%20Act,%201961.pdf.

New guidelines for the registration of the Pension Fund Managers under the NPS

August 7th, 2012 No comments

Last month, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) issued revised guidelines for the registration of the Pension Fund Managers (PFMs).  These guidelines are for the PFMs to manage the National Pension System (NPS) in the non-governmental and private sector.  See here.  The NPS was implemented in 2004 for all government employees and later extended to the private sector in 2009.

The guidelines bring about the following changes in the NPS:

  • No limitation on the number of PFMs – Under the previous system, the number of PFMs was predetermined and bidders would then fill up these slots.  There are seven PFMs in the NPS.
  •  No bidding process – In the earlier system, interested parties had to go through a bidding process to become a PFM.  The lowest bidders would be appointed the PFMs.  However, the new guidelines have done away with the bidding system.  Any player interested in becoming a PFM can now do so by fulfilling certain eligibility criteria laid down by the PFRDA.
  • No uniform fee to be charged by all PFMs – The PFMs earlier had to charge a fixed fee amount, which was uniform for all the PFMs.  The new guidelines states that the PFRDA would lay down an overall ceiling and the PFMs would be at liberty to prescribe their own fee provided it is under this overall ceiling.

Although NPS was made accessible on a voluntary basis to non-government employees and those working in the private sector since 2009, the subscription to the schemes under NPS was lower than expected.  In August 2010, a committee was set up under the chairmanship of Mr. G.N. Bajpai to review the implementation of NPS in the informal sector.  The Committee noted that since NPS was opened to the general public there were only 50,000 private sector subscribers until May 2011.  According to the Committee, the low subscription was due to the low-to-negligible distribution incentive to the PFMs to distribute the different schemes to the subscribers to invest their funds.  The Committee thus recommended that PFRDA should consider revising the structure of the NPS so as to increase subscription.  It suggested making the fee structure dynamic for PFMs.  The Committee had also suggested that there should be some revision in the bidding as well as the selection process for the PFMs to increase competition and thereby incentivise them to distribute the schemes.

These changes, as suggested by the Bajpai Committee and now notified by the PFRDA, are different from the original design of the NPS.  The Old Age Social and Income Security (OASIS) Report of 2000, which had initially suggested the establishment of pension system for the unorganised sector in the country, had recommended a low-cost structure for the pension system.  The Report had stated that the choice of PFMs should be based on a bidding process where the lowest bidder should be made a PFM under the NPS.  The rationale for the auction base for the PFMs was that it would provide a system to the subscribers whereby they could make investments for their old age by paying a minimal fee.  A set uniform fee was meant to eliminate the large marketing expenses which would ultimately get passed on to the subscibers.  In addition, the intent behind keeping the fund managers from the distribution and marketing of the schemes was to prevent any mis-selling (misleading an investor about the characteristics of a product) that may happen.

Recent newspaper reports have raised doubt if these new rules would help in increasing the penetration of the NPS in the markets.  However, the chairman of PFRDA, Mr. Yogesh Agarwal, in a recent interview explained that it was important to bring about changes in the structure of the NPS.  According to him a scheme which was mandatory for the government sector could not be expected to perform as well in the private sector (where it is voluntary) without any changes made to its structure.  He also stated that the NPS should be able to compete with other financial products such as insurance and mutual funds in the market.

See here for the PRS Legislative Brief on the PFRDA Bill, 2011.

Notes:

The seven PFMs are LIC Pension Fund Ltd., UTI Retirement Solutions Ltd., SBI Pension Funds Pvt. Ltd., IDFC Pension Fund Management Co. Ltd., ICICI Prudential Pension Funds Management Co. Ltd., Kotak Mahindra Pension funds Ltd., and Reliance Capital Pension Fund Ltd..