The Fallacy of Risk Based Capital

Vice Chairman Hoenig’s 2016 WSJ editorial reprinted yesterday described both the actual experience and logical failures when using RBC for measuring bank capital adequacy.

In October 2015 the NCUA board approved a new rule, in a 2 to 1 vote, imposing this standard on all credit unions over $100 million.  All the required risk based weights are in this two-page NCUA summary.

NCUA’s 424 Page Rule

The final rule is 424 pages.    Here is how NCUA estimated the costs to the 4,784 credit unions under $100 million not yet subject to the rule and the 1,489 who would be covered:

Additional one-time costs estimated by NCUA are $152,562 collectively, spread among 4,784 non-complex, non-covered credit unions, at an average of 1 hour for policy review and revision, for an average of $31.89 per credit union; and $1.9 million collectively, spread among 1,489 complex covered credit unions, at an average of 40 hours for policy review and revision, for an average of $1,275 per credit union. 

NCUA states it will only cost $1,275 for each credit union covered by the rule to implement it; and $31.89 each for the 4,784 credit unions not yet subject to review it.  These estimates cause one to wonder what operational world NCUA is living in!

The two page summary shows over 75 categories of risk weights with multiple subsets that would make each RBC calculation a spread sheet with over 100 different inputs with multiple percentage weights. Several risk weights for the same asset can vary from 100-300% of the asset’s book value.

The following are some examples of how NCUA would implement the rule.

Deductions from the numerator (net worth) of the RBC ratio include 100% of the NCUSIF capitalization deposit, all goodwill and any other intangible assets.   This treatment is contrary to GAAP accounting presentation and how credit unions report these assets in their financial statements for their members, examiners and the public.

FHLB capital  is risk weighted at 20% and the  CLF equity at 0%.     NCUA is  100% sure there is no loss in the CLF, assigns a 20% risk to FHLB stock, and 100% certain the NCUSIF deposit is at such risk that it has no value.  This reflects a complete lack of confidence in NCUA’s own supervision  of credit unions-even under RBC!

Off-balance sheet items, not yet  assets, are included in the denominator.  Unfunded draws under lines of credit are added to the denominator at various percentages of total value and then weighted at 100% risk.   All loans transferred with recourse are included at 100% of value, no matter the kind or amount of credit enhancement provided by the credit union.

A 19% RBC Ratio

NCUA’ s  impact analysis from Oct 2015 states the average RBC ratio for all “complex” credit unions would be 19%.  Only 16 new credit unions (out of 1,489) were determined to be  undercapitalized that had not already been identified by the existing RBNW rule.

Of the 1,489 cu’s  subject to the rule, 482 would report RBC greater than 20% with 110 of those over 30%.   This is  one example of the distortion and misleading impression created by RBC versus the easily understood and comparable  leverage ratio.

If in doubt about the negative impact of this burden, then review  the tables of risk weights to understand the complications when calculating the RBC ratio.   Or better yet, review the 424 page rule.

There is one primary reason this approach was dropped by the banking regulators.   The “juice is not worth the squeeze.”




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