Marketplace Scratch Pad

Banks: We’ll make you pay for regulation

Scott Jagow Feb 17, 2010

The banks are busy calculating how much financial regulation will cost them — I mean, you. Today, JP Morgan came out with a 184-page report that claims proposed changes to regulation will lead to a 33% increase in the price of all banking services.

The report says return on equity (ROE) for global banks would fall from 13.3% to 5.4% if all the US and European regulation proposals become law. More from the Financial Times:

The issue then is the extent to which banks can pass on the `cost’ of the regulatory hit to their customers. By JPM’s estimates, pricing on financial products would have to go up by 33 per cent for the bank sector ROE to get back to 13.3 per cent.

Do banks need a 13.3% return on equity for shareholders? Is that some kind of magic number? Well, no — but I’m assuming that figure comes from looking back at ROE during the banks’ healthier days. See bank ROE for this decade by quarter. Between 2000 and 2007, ROE consistently ranged between 12-15%. Since late 2007, commercial bank ROEs have ranged from -9% at the depth of the financial crisis to about 7%.

I’m sure the banks would like to get back to the good ole’ days. We’ll have more on ROE tonight on Marketplace.

If the ROE doesn’t scare Congress, JP Morgan hopes this will:

“The cumulative impact of all the proposed regulation suggests that there is a real risk that we may move from a system that was under regulated to one that is over regulated and that could cause a significant increase in lending costs and a negative impact on the economy.”

In other words: Stop what you’re doing at once. You will destroy the global economy. Hey, we should know. We have a particular talent in doing just that.

But on one of the 184 pages of this report, JP Morgan says no more Too Big To Fail:

“We believe big banks should be allowed to fail. We think stability in the financial system should be addressed by ensuring deposit insurance systems are stable and well funded, and by tackling directly the risks presented by the interconnectivity and potential contagion of the modern global banking system.”

Sounds like a call for regulation to me.

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