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January 18, 2013

Bank Reform Takes One Flawed Step Forward

The Financial Accounting Standards Board finished 2012 on a high note, issuing a draft new rule to change the way banks build reserves against losses on loans. It is a major step forward from our current system. Still, FASB’s proposed rule is flawed conceptually and in its application, and in itself it cannot achieve the international consistency that is desirable.

The good news: The board recognizes that its existing rules on the Allocation for Loan and Lease Losses may have worsened the 2008 financial crisis. These rules limited bank reserves to those that are already “incurred.” This all but ensures that banks’ rainy day funds will be too skinny, particularly in periods when credit markets are under stress. Worse yet, limiting loss estimates to events that have already occurred makes the allowance for loan and lease losses procyclical—reported earnings are too high in good times and losses hit hardest in bad times.

The FASB’s draft proposal to reform these rules incorporates what is known as the “Current Expected Credit Loss Model.” It is meant to expand reserves to reflect losses that are expected over the life of the loan, and it is a big improvement over the existing regime. But as it stands, the proposal could create risks for the financial system.”

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Read Eugene Ludwig and Paul Volcker’s full Wall Street Journal opinion piece here

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