Treasury Drops a Bombshell: Fed’s Stress Tests Get It Wrong

by Pam Martens and Russ Martens
Wall Street on Parade

Four days after the Federal Reserve Board of Governors held an open meeting to propose a new rule to contain counterparty risk on Wall Street on a bank by bank basis, researchers at the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research (OFR) dropped a bombshell on the Fed. The researchers, Jill Cetina, Mark Paddrik, and Sriram Rajan, produced a study which shows, in their opinion, that the Fed’s stress test that measures counterparty risk on a bank by bank basis is all wet. The problem, say the researchers, is not what would happen if the largest counterparty to a specific bank failed but what would happen if that counterparty happened to be the counterparty to other systemically important Wall Street banks.

The researchers note that the Fed’s stress test “looks exclusively at the direct loss concentration risk, and does not consider the ramifications of indirect losses that may come through a shared counterparty, who is systemically important.” By focusing on “bank-level solvency” instead of the system as a whole, the Fed may be ignoring the real problem of systemic risks in the system. The researchers write:

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