Switzerland moves to toughen bank rules

15th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Swiss legislators have moved to drastically toughen capital requirements on big banks Credit Suisse and UBS amid concerns their failure in a crisis could drag down the Alpine country's economy.

Lawmakers in the upper chamber of parliament, the Council of States, approved the measures expected to cost each bank $90 billion in a preliminary vote late on Tuesday and were due to cast a final vote on Thursday.

The measures would require the banks to hike their high-quality core common equity to 10 percent of assets plus hold another nine percent in bonds that could be converted into equity if needed.

The measures are considerably tougher than the Basel III international standards under which banks are to raise their high-quality core common equity to 7.0 percent of assets from the current 2.0 percent.

UBS has criticised the measures which it says will put it at a competitive disadvantage.

The lower house of parliament will not take up the government-proposed bill until after the summer break, according to a spokesman.

The measures were proposed by experts last year after a government rescue of UBS during the 2008 economic crisis.

Last year a commission of experts advised the government to adopt measures tougher than the Basel III standards as Credit Suisse and UBS are regarded as "too big too fail" because of their size and influence on the Swiss economy.

UBS had to be shored up during the financial crisis by a multi-billion dollar state rescue package.

The measures would also require the two banks to keep a 30-day liquidity reserve on hand in case markets seize up as happened during the financial crisis, and prove they would be able to keep vital services running in case of bankruptcy.

In case the banks take state aid in the future they will not be able to pay bonuses without government approval.

The Swiss central bank estimated last year the measures, which would come into force by 2019, would cost each bank around 76 billion Swiss francs ($90 billion, 60 billion euros).

© 2011 AFP

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