On July 2, 2013, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors approved long-awaited final rules implementing the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision's Basel III rules. The package of rules, as approved, will minimize the burden on smaller, less complex financial institutions and is considered an improvement over the initially proposed rules.
Although the final rules adhered, by and large, to the initial draft proposal released last June, some aspects of the final rules were softened for community banks. For instance, community banks will be allowed to continue using the current risk weights for residential mortgage loans. Regulators also gave banks with less than $250 billion in assets a one-time opportunity to "opt-out" of a requirement to include unrealized gains and losses in Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income in their capital calculation. Such banks were warned, however, that that they would not be permitted to reverse any such decision in order to avoid an opportunity for regulatory arbitrage. In addition, regulators agreed to allow bank holding companies with less than $15 billion in assets to grandfather the eligibility of trust-preferred securities as part of their Tier 1 capital. Community banks also were provided a longer transition period, with implementation starting on January 1, 2015, while larger banks must begin compliance on January 1, 2014. Unchanged from the proposed rules, and still potentially troubling to smaller financial institutions, is the requirement for a capital conservation buffer of 2.5 percent.