Fed flags BofA, 2 others; high fliers celebrate

The Federal Reserve objects to capital distribution plans proposed by U.S. units of Deutsche Bank and Santander, barring the banks from issuing dividends or stock buybacks until it approves a new plan, the central bank said on Wednesday.

The Fed did not reject capital plans for the remaining 29 banks evaluated in the second part of its annual stress test. Bank of America's approval is contingent on it submitting a revised capital strategy by the end of September.

Even with the Fed's requirement that it resubmit its capital plan, BofA was still permitted to launch a $4 billion buyback. The company acknowledged, though, that the Fed could restrict its buybacks and dividends if it does not fix the identified weaknesses.

Many banks responded to the approval by tweaking their buybacks and dividends:

  • Wells Fargo plans to increase its dividend to 37.5 cents per share in the second quarter of 2015, up from its current rate of 35 cents a share.
  • Citigroup plans to raise its quarterly common stock dividend to 5 cents per share and buy back up to $7.8 billion in common stock starting in the second quarter of 2015.
  • Goldman Sachs expects to increase its quarterly dividend by 5 cents to 65 cents per share.
  • JPMorgan Chase intends to raise its quarterly dividend 4 cents to 44 cents per share and repurchase up to $6.4 billion in common stock starting next month.
  • Morgan Stanley plans to repurchase up to $3.1 billion in common stock starting in the second quarter of 2015 and increase its dividend 5 cents to 15 cents per share.
  • U.S. Bancorp expects to raise its 2015 second-quarter dividend to 25.5 cents per share, up 4.1 percent over its current rate. It has also approved a more than $3 billion buyback beginning next month.
  • American Express plans to increase its quarterly dividend by 12 percent and has authorized a repurchase of up to $6.6 billion in common shares through the second quarter of 2016.
  • BNY Mellon expects to repurchase up to $3.1 billion in common stock.
  • Discover plans to repurchase up to $2.2 billion in common stock during the five quarters ending June 30, 2016. It will also raise its next quarterly dividend to 28 cents per share, up from 24 cents previously.
  • Fifth Third Bancorp said it will raise its common stock dividend to 14 cents in 2016. It will also repurchase up to $765 million in shares.
  • PNC expects to increase its quarterly dividend on common stock by 3 cents to 51 cents per share in the second quarter of 2015.
  • Comerica intends to raise its quarterly dividend 5 percent to 21 cents per share. It plans to buy back $393 million in stock starting in the second quarter of 2015.
  • Capital One plans to buy back more than $3 billion in common stock through the second quarter of 2016 and raise its quarterly dividend to 40 cents per share.
  • SunTrust plans to increase its dividend to 24 cents per share in the second quarter of 2015, up from 20 cents previously. It will repurchase up to $875 million in common stock.
  • State Street intends to increase its dividend to 34 cents per share in the 2015 second quarter, an increase from 30 cents. It also plans to repurchase up to $1.8 billion in common stock.
  • Northern Trust expects to raise its quarterly dividend to 36 cents per share from 33 cents starting in the 2015 second quarter. It can repurchase up to $675 million in common stock starting next month.

In BofA's case, the central bank identified deficiencies including "weaknesses in certain aspects of Bank of America's loss and revenue modeling practices and in some aspects of the (bank holding company's) internal controls." The bank has until Sept. 30 to resubmit its plan.

Bank of America shares fell in extended trading on Wednesday.

Stress tests, adopted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, gauge big banks' ability to manage risk and plan for a potential economic shock. Wednesday's announcement follows last week's assessment that the 31 banks' capital cushion could withstand a hypothetical crisis.

Santander bank branch
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Santander bank branch

Generally, big banks have reduced risk since the first tests in 2009, the Fed said. The common equity capital ratio—which compares "high-quality capital" to risk-weighted assets for the 31 banks—more than doubled from the first quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2014.

"While [bank holding companies] have better practices in place today than they did before the crisis, many continue to have challenges in fully meeting supervisory expectations for capital planning," the Fed said in a release.

Read MoreFed: Banks have capital to withstand a depression

The Fed objected to Deutsche Bank and Santander's U.S. unit capital strategies because of "widespread and critical deficiencies" in gauging risk, among other factors. The central bank emphasized that it made the decision because of qualitative, rather than quantitative concerns.

"Deutsche Bank is committed to strengthening and enhancing its capital-planning process," the company said in a release.

Santander plans to address the qualitative concerns that prompted the results, it said in a release.

"These results confirm that Santander Holdings USA maintains capital well above regulatory minimums throughout the severe stress environments presented by the Federal Reserve. However, the qualitative assessment highlights that we still have meaningful work to do to meet our regulator's expectations and our own standards of excellence," Santander Holdings USA CEO Scott Powell said in a release.

The banks can only distribute capital once new plans are "expressly permitted" by the Fed.

The results are not likely to derail any plans for shareholder rewards this year - Deutsche Bank said it didn't request any dividend payments anyway, and Santander has permission to keep a dividend payout announced earlier this year.

"Our capital plan review helps ensure that the capital distribution plans of large banks will not compromise their ability to continue lending to businesses and households even during a period of serious financial stress," said Federal Reserve Gov. Daniel K. Tarullo in a release.

Read MoreBank shares to jump after stress tests: History

It marked the second consecutive year the Fed objected to Santander's capital plan.