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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Barr suggests stress test changes may be coming

Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Federal Reserve Supervision Stress Test Nonbank

On December 1, Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair for Supervision Michael S. Barr signaled changes may be coming to the supervisory stress test standards for large banks, as the Fed evaluates whether the test used to set capital requirements reflects an appropriately wide range of risks. Speaking during an American Enterprise Institute event, Barr commented that the Fed is also “considering the potential for stress testing to be a tool to explore different sources of financial stress and uncover channels for contagion that lead to unanticipated consequences.” He added that the use of “multiple scenarios or adapting the stress test in other ways to better account for the high degree of interconnectedness between banks and other financial entities could allow supervisors and banks to identify those conditions and take action to address them.” Financial stability risks posed by the nonbank sector are also a strong concern for regulators, Barr said, commenting that many of these firms are undercapitalized and engage in high-risk activities. He stressed that the migration of activities from banks to nonbanks should be monitored carefully, and cautioned against lowering bank capital requirements “in a race to the bottom,” particularly since nonbank financial market stress is often directly and indirectly transmitted to the banking system. Banks must have sufficient capital to remain resilient to those stresses, Barr said.

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