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Regulators’ glare on banks softens

NEW YORK — Two years ago, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, told an audience in Davos, Switzerland, that people should stop picking on bankers. Dimon is still waiting for his wish to come true.

Bankers, always a big presence at the World Economic Forum in Davos, arrive this year under less regulatory pressure and with better profits than in past years. But they are still on the defensive.

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Dimon, scheduled to appear on one of the first panels when the Davos forum opens on Wednesday, is again embroiled in controversy. Last week, ­JPMorgan’s board cut his pay for 2012 in half, to $11.5 million, holding him accountable for a multibillion-dollar loss on derivatives trading.

International bankers are under pressure from the law enforcement authorities, as well, and one can find examples close to Davos.

UBS, based in Zurich, agreed to pay a $1.5 billion fine to the global authorities after admitting this month that it had helped manipulate a benchmark rate used to set mortgage and other interest rates.

Still, bankers may find the atmosphere in Davos a bit more congenial than in some recent years. There appears to be a growing sentiment that banks have taken enough abuse.

This month in Basel, Switzerland, for instance, an international gathering of central bankers and bank supervisors relaxed new rules that were intended to ensure banks would be able to survive an event like the collapse of Lehman Bros. in 2008.

The rules, which are not binding but serve as a benchmark for national regulators, would require banks to maintain a 30-day supply of cash or liquid assets that are easy to convert into cash. But after the decision in Basel this month, banks would have until 2019 to accumulate the additional cash and assets, instead of 2015.

The regulators also broadened the types of assets that could be used to include even some mortgage-backed securities — the same general class of security that was at the heart of the crisis.

Many analysts see the decision as a gift to the banking industry, which had insisted that planned new regulations would lead banks to curtail lending.

“Most bankers I talked to breathed a huge sigh of relief,’’ said Cornelius K. Hurley, a law professor at Boston University.

The discussions at Davos may offer clues about whether the Basel decisions foreshadow other concessions.

There is a risk that efforts to rein in financial risk could lose momentum as the trauma of Lehman’s collapse fades, Hurley said. ‘‘We said to ourselves, back in 2008, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,’’ he said. ‘‘It seems the farther away we get, the evidence is that we are wasting it.’’

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