Rob Nichols, the chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, argued in a comment letter Thursday that a recent federal law reducing the dividend on the stock that banks purchase as part of membership in the Federal Reserve system, violates the Fifth Amendment clause banning the uncompensated seizure of property.
Congress reduced the dividend as part of a deal to pay for transportation projects. Dividends for the stock, which cannot be bought or sold, had been set at 6 percent since the Federal Reserve’s inception in 1913. Banks cannot ever lose money on the stock; they’re even paid out if their regional Fed bank disbands. So the dividend represented a risk-free profit, earning back its investment in full every 17 years.
The dividend cut, from 6 percent to the current interest rate on the 10-year Treasury note, is estimated to reduce the banks’ payments by roughly $7 billion over 10 years. The change only applies to banks with more than $10 billion in assets.