Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stress Test: Almost 100 Regulators at Citigroup

by Bill McBride on 2/12/2009 12:01:00 AM

From Eric Dash at the NY Times: Bank Test May Expand U.S. Regulators’ Role

Nearly 100 federal banking regulators descended on Citigroup in New York on Wednesday morning. Dozens more fanned out through Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and other big banks across the nation.
[E]xams for 18 or so of the biggest banks are set to begin immediately, and the first results could arrive within weeks. They are not expected to be made public for every institution.
Regulators plan to assess the potential losses a bank could face over the next two years, rather than the typical one year ... They are also expected to look at banks’ exposure to derivatives and other assets normally carried off their balance sheets ... Their assumptions will be guided on a “worst case” basis.
It sounds like the stress tests could be completed within "weeks" at some banks, and I think 30 days is sufficient for all 18 or so banks with $100 billion in assets.

The banks will probably fall into one of three categories:

1) No additional assistance required. These banks will definitely want this publicized!

2) The banks in between that will need additional capital. This is where the Capital Assistance Program comes in:
Capital Assistance Program: While banks will be encouraged to access private markets to raise any additional capital needed to establish this buffer, a financial institution that has undergone a comprehensive “stress test” will have access to a Treasury provided “capital buffer” to help absorb losses and serve as a bridge to receiving increased private capital. ... Firms will receive a preferred security investment from Treasury in convertible securities that they can convert into common equity if needed to preserve lending in a worse-than-expected economic environment. This convertible preferred security will carry a dividend to be specified later and a conversion price set at a modest discount from the prevailing level of the institution’s stock price as of February 9, 2009.
emphasis added
3) Banks that will need to be nationalized or sold.

The NY Times article suggests that the results will not be made public for every institution, but that will just lead to rumors and speculation. It would be better to announce the category of all 18+ banks at the same time (in 30 days or so). At that time announce the capital infusions for the category 2 banks, and the nationalization of the category 3 banks.

The sooner the better, although March 12th works for me (30 days from Geithner's speech)! (update: I was just making up a date for fun - this isn't an announced date)