Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a government agency that regulates banks, warned recently that banks shouldn't deplete their capital cushions just to boost quarterly earnings.
"I remain very concerned that too many institutions are continuing to reduce provisions (for potentially bad loans) solely to boost earnings," Curry said in a speech in October. "... We are ready to take action if and when it is needed."
Here's a rundown of when major banks will report financial results for the final quarter of 2012:
—WELLS FARGO: Reports Friday. Mortgage refinancing drove third-quarter results at both Wells Fargo, the country's biggest mortgage lender, and JPMorgan Chase, the second-biggest. Analysts will want to know how long the wave can last.
—JPMORGAN CHASE: Reports Wednesday, Jan. 16. JPMorgan's surprise $6 billion trading loss last year has made it a target for investigators. In a regulatory filing in November, JPMorgan said it is under "heightened regulatory scrutiny" and expects that it "will more frequently be the subject of more formal enforcement actions."
—GOLDMAN SACHS: Reports Wednesday, Jan. 16. Analysts will want to know if the "fiscal cliff" budget showdown in Washington made Goldman's clients shy away from trading, or whether they jumped at the chance to make money on the uncertainty.
—BANK OF AMERICA: Reports Thursday, Jan. 17. The bank continues to grapple with the fallout from problem mortgages made before the crisis. On Monday, in addition to the national foreclosure settlement, Bank of America announced it would settle charges with the government-sponsored mortgage lender Fannie Mae over mortgages Fannie bought from Bank of America.
—CITIGROUP: Reports Thursday, Jan. 17. The earnings report will be a critical test for new CEO Michael Corbat, who will be making his first major appearance to Wall Street since taking over the bank in October. He took the top job after Vikram Pandit abruptly stepped down in October. Corbat has already announced job cuts and plans to exit some countries.
—MORGAN STANLEY: Earnings date not announced. The bank is trimming jobs and other expenses, including plans reported this week to cut another 3 percent of its workforce, or 1,600 jobs. Morgan Stanley is also focusing on financial advising as a way to build up revenue more reliably.