Financial Institutions: Causes and Consequences of Recent Bank Failures

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Ten states concentrated in the western, midwestern, and southeastern United States—all areas where the housing market had experienced strong growth in the prior decade—experienced 10 or more commercial bank or thrift (bank) failures between 2008 and 2011. The failures of the smaller banks (those with less than $1 billion in assets) in these states were largely driven by credit losses on commercial real estate (CRE) loans. The failed banks also had often pursued aggressive growth strategies using nontraditional, riskier funding sources and exhibited weak underwriting and ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. January 3, 2013.

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Ten states concentrated in the western, midwestern, and southeastern United States—all areas where the housing market had experienced strong growth in the prior decade—experienced 10 or more commercial bank or thrift (bank) failures between 2008 and 2011. The failures of the smaller banks (those with less than $1 billion in assets) in these states were largely driven by credit losses on commercial real estate (CRE) loans. The failed banks also had often pursued aggressive growth strategies using nontraditional, riskier funding sources and exhibited weak underwriting and credit administration practices. The rapid growth of CRE portfolios led to high concentrations that increased the banks’ exposure to the sustained real estate and economic downturn that began in 2007. GAO’s econometric model revealed that CRE concentrations and the use of brokered deposits, a funding source carrying higher risk than core deposits, were associated with an increased likelihood of failure for banks across all states during the period. Several state regulatory and community banking association officials told GAO that in some cases, the losses failed banks incurred on their CRE loans were caused by declines in the value of the underlying collateral of impaired, collateral-dependent loans. However, data are not publicly available that indicate the extent to which loan losses were driven by such declines in collateral values. Fair value accounting also has been cited as a potential contributor to bank failures, but between 2007 and 2011 fair value accounting losses in general did not appear to be a major contributor, as over two-thirds of small failed banks’ assets were not subject to fair value accounting. The Department of the Treasury and the Financial Stability Forum’s Working Group on Loss Provisioning have observed that the current accounting model for estimating credit losses is based on historical loss rates, which were low in the prefinancial crisis years. They said that earlier recognition of loan losses could have potentially lessened the impact of the crisis, when banks had to recognize the losses through a sudden series of provisions to the loan loss allowance, thus reducing earnings and regulatory capital. The Financial Accounting Standards Board has issued a proposal for public comment for a loan loss provisioning model that is more forward-looking and focuses on expected losses, which would result in banks establishing earlier recognition of loan losses for the loans they underwrite and could incentivize prudent risk management practices. Moreover, it should help address the cycle of losses and failures that emerged in the recent crisis as banks were forced to increase loan loss allowances and raise capital when they were least able to do so."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • January 3, 2013

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Financial Institutions: Causes and Consequences of Recent Bank Failures, report, January 3, 2013; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301913/: accessed October 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.