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Washington regulators unite to win backing for Basel II in the US

LONDON, June 12 (Global Risk Regulator) -- Top Washington bank regulators have begun pitching hard to win public support for the adoption of the new Basel capital adequacy rules in the US. John Dugan, the new head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), an agency that has often been critical of the internationally-negotiated new rules to bolster bank safety (Basel II), gave strong backing to US implementation at a dinner for bankers in London on Wednesday evening.

Describing the Basel II capital accord as “one of the most significant recent developments in the financial sector,” Comptroller Dugan said he “strongly” agreed with the thrust of the new rules. His comments follow similarly strong backing for Basel II from Ben Bernanke, the new chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, in Chicago in mid-May. The chairman said it was time to move forward to the next stage of implementing Basel II. “This framework will modernize bank supervision and bring supervisory practice into line with best industry practice. Substantial benefits will ensue -- most importantly, a safer and sounder banking system,” Bernanke said.

This strong support from the two most senior regulators comes as an extended period of public comment on the proposed rules gets under way in the US. Four US regulatory agencies – the Fed, OCC, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) – have jointly developed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR), which is the next step in the process of adoption of the US version of Basel II. The Fed has already made the NPR publicly available. The formal comment period will start shortly, when the Office of Management and Budget has completed an economic impact analysis of the rulemaking.