Big-Bank Plans for Life After Death Released by U.S. Regulators

  • JPMorgan creates new holding company in revised ‘living will’
  • Eight Wall Street firms refiled plans to address shortcomings

JPMorgan Chase & Co. established a new holding company and Wells Fargo & Co. cut some side businesses as big banks moved to convince U.S. regulators that they can safely go bankrupt without shaking the financial system.

Public portions of so-called living wills refiled by eight of the largest U.S. lenders were released by the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Tuesday, detailing what companies have done to fix shortcomings flagged earlier this year. Updates were due Oct. 1 from five banks that failed to produce sufficient plans and three others required to address deficiencies in preparation for the next round of annual filings in July.

JPMorgan -- one of the five that failed in April -- said it has set up an intermediate holding company and has begun transferring assets to it. The new entity will “stand ready to make capital and liquidity contributions” to other units in a failure and has a contractual obligation to ensure resources are quickly channeled to the right places if the lender collapses. The bank also said it’s added “significantly” to its easy-to-sell assets and has stashed extra liquidity at each of its major units.

Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo, Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and State Street Corp. also were ordered to refile their resolution plans, with the understanding that another failure could lead to government intervention and new capital demands. JPMorgan said the bank’s revised plan “responds fully to all deficiencies, substantially addresses the shortcomings identified in the agencies’ feedback and also addresses new requirements,” and other banks said they also are weighing similar intermediate holding companies.

Living wills were mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act to lay out how complex banks could go through bankruptcy without roiling the financial system. If the Fed and FDIC decide a bank’s plan isn’t credible, they can force changes to its operation. Most of the 2015 submissions were rejected, and future failures would trigger a lengthy process that could -- in the worst case -- lead to a bank being forced to break up.

JPMorgan also said it created a strategy for selling off as many as 16 independent pieces of the company that it called “highly attractive businesses.” The plan described the entities as “global leaders and top competitors in the products and markets in which they have chosen to compete” and said they would have a diverse array of potential buyers.

Wells Fargo, which was criticized by regulators for “material errors” in its rejected 2015 plan, said it shed some of its non-core businesses to make the company easier to handle in a failure. The bank also said it has been “increasing both the liquid assets available to meet its needs in a time of stress and the amount of capital available to absorb potential losses.”

Bank of America’s repairs included assuring regulators that it could better figure out where resources should be stockpiled in key units and how much might be needed.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. also had public portions of their refiled plans released by regulators on Tuesday. The plans address how they’re fixing individual shortcomings before the next annual submissions due July 1.

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