The Federal Housing Finance Board has ditched a controversial capital proposal that would have required Federal Home Loan Banks to cut dividends by 50% if they did not meet a high level of retained earnings.Finance Board Chairman Ronald Rosenfeld agreed with critics that the proposal was "flawed" and said he is now committed to working on a way to tie the level of retained earnings to the risk profile of the individual FHLBanks. As originally proposed last March, FHLBanks had to maintain retained earnings of a least $50 million plus 1% of non-advance assets, which created widespread opposition from banking trade groups and the FHLBank community. Board members Allan Mendelowitz and Geoff Bacino said they are committed to strengthening retained earnings, but not in a way that restricts dividends. "Whatever route we choose, it is this board member's opinion that the Finance Board should use dividend limitations only in extreme circumstances," Mr. Bacino said at a Dec. 22 board meeting. The Finance Board did approve a watered-down capital rule at the meeting. The final rule simply prohibits FHLBanks from paying dividends in the form of stock if they have excess stock that exceeds 1% of their assets. This rule will affect only the Cincinnati FHLBank, one FHFB staffer said.

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