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Deutsche Bank's US business put on federal problem bank list


Deutsche Bank's US business put on federal problem bank list
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Deutsche Bank's US business put on federal problem bank list

The US subsidiary of Deutsche Bank has been added to a federal list of institutions with weaknesses serious enough to threaten their survival, in a move that will add to the issues facing the German lender as it scales back its North American operations.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a bank regulator, said last week its list of “problem banks” — those with financial, managerial or operational weaknesses that endanger their financial viability — had dropped from 95 to 92 between the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year.

But the aggregate assets owned by the problem banks soared over that period from $13.9bn to $56.4bn, suggesting the addition of a single bank with about $42bn in assets.

The addition of Deutsche Bank’s federally insured US business to the list accounted for the shift in assets, according to one person familiar with the situation.

Any bank with a US parent would have had to alert investors to this development. The only US subsidiary of an overseas bank in that size bracket belongs to Deutsche, which has been entangled in a series of regulatory scrapes in the US and dozens of private lawsuits.

Deutsche’s banking arm, known as Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (DBTCA), had $42.1bn in assets at the end of April, according to a regulatory filing.

The FDIC declined to comment, citing its longstanding policy not to identify any bank on the list for fear of making problems worse.

Deutsche said: “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on specific regulatory feedback. The ultimate parent of the Deutsche Bank Group, Deutsche Bank AG is very well capitalised and has significant liquidity reserves.

“Our principal US banking subsidiary, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, has a very robust balance sheet as disclosed in our annual and quarterly regulatory filings. As we have indicated previously, we are highly focused on addressing identified deficiencies in our US operations.”

Deutsche involvement on the critical list is likely to intensify debate among investors over the future of the bank in the US, the world’s deepest investment-banking fee pool.

New chief executive Christian Sewing has responded to three straight years of annual losses by vowing to make big cuts to the investment bank, with much of the adjustment coming in the US. But analysts have asked how Deutsche can keep running a viable business on Wall Street, assuming that it cannot make heavy cuts to compliance or legal or other support functions.

Since the appointment of Mr Sewing in early April, shares in Deutsche Bank fell by close to 14 per cent, underperforming the wider German stock market which is up 4 per cent over the same period. In the days after the annual shareholder meeting on May 24, the stock fell below the threshold of €10 to the lowest level since October 2016, when investor confidence in Germany’s largest lender was shaken by media reports that it might be fined $14bn by US regulators.

The FDIC is a federal agency in charge of promoting public confidence in the US financial system by insuring deposits in banks and savings associations.

Its list of problem banks is supposed to serve as a gauge of the overall health of the US banking system. At its peak in 2009, the problem list ran to 884 institutions. The drop in the first quarter brought the tally to a new post-crisis low.

To get on the list, a bank must receive a so-called “Camels” rating from bank examiners of four or five, on a scale of one to five. The Camels test rates each element of capital, assets, management, earnings, liquidity and sensitivity (to market risk), then assigns a composite score.

If problems continue with a listed bank, the FDIC takes control and then looks to sell the bank to a stronger lender or liquidate it, refunding depositors.

Deutsche has been rapped repeatedly by US regulators in recent years, over matters ranging from flawed research reports to a failure to fully comply with the Volcker ban on proprietary trading.

When New York’s Department of Financial Services fined Deutsche $425m in January 2007 over Russian “ mirror trades,” it noted that the trades were routinely cleared through DBTCA.

The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, twice failed DBTCA in its annual stress test, before giving Deutsche the all-clear — under relaxed rules — in 2017. In 2016 and 2015, it had faulted the bank for “broad and substantial weaknesses” in its capital-planning processes.

The difference in aggregate assets on the FDIC list and the possibility that this was linked to Deutsche Bank was first reported by Bill McBride, blogger at calculatedriskblog.com.

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