Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bank Stress Test Results

From the WSJ: Banks Await Stress-Test Results
The Obama administration is considering making public some results of the stress tests being conducted on the country's 19 largest banks, said people familiar with the matter, a move that could help more clearly separate healthy banks from the weaklings.

It isn't clear precisely what information the government might disclose. ... But some within the administration believe a certain amount of information needs to be released in order to provide assurance about the validity and rigor of the assessments. In addition, these people also are concerned that the tests won't be able to fulfill their basic function of shoring up confidence unless investors are able to see data for themselves.

From the NY Times: U.S. Planning to Reveal Data on Health of Top Banks
The Obama administration is drawing up plans to disclose the conditions of the 19 biggest banks in the country, according to senior administration officials ... The administration has decided to reveal some sensitive details of the stress tests now being completed after concluding that keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest.

“The purpose of this program is to prevent panics, not cause them,” said one senior official ... “And it’s becoming clearer that we and the banks are going to have to explain clearly where each bank falls in the spectrum.”

Two senior government officials said on Tuesday that they were now likely to encourage the banks to reveal a range of information, perhaps including the size of losses the banks could suffer under each of the stress assumptions.

Stress test results should be released for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the taxpayer deserves to have some insight into the future viability of the banks the government has supported to date. Shareholders deserve to know where they stand and potential investors in other financial institutions need to know if they are competing with another bank or with the government.