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More from the FDIC's Risk Management Manual

Risk Management Manual of Examination Policies    

Section 3.8 - Off-Balance Sheet Activities

Off-balance sheet activities encompass a variety of items including certain loan commitments, certain letters of credit, and revolving underwriting facilities. Additionally, swaps, futures, forwards, and option contracts are derivative instruments whose notional values are carried off-balance sheet, but whose fair values are recorded on the balance sheet. Examiners reviewing off-balance sheet derivative contracts will find resources such as the Capital Markets Handbook, the Consolidated Reports of Condition and Income (Call Report) Instructions, Senior Capital Markets Specialists, and capital markets and accounting subject matter experts helpful.

Off-balance sheet fee producing activities can improve earnings ratios, at a faster pace than on-balance sheet fee producing activities. Earnings ratios typically use assets as a component. Since earnings generated from these activities are included in income, while total asset balances are not affected, ratios appear higher than they would if the income was derived from on-balance sheet activities. Because these types of activities remain off the balance sheet, capital to asset ratios (with the exception of risk-based capital ratios) are not adversely affected regardless of the volume of business conducted. But, the volume and risk of the off-balance sheet activities needs to be considered by the examiner in the evaluation of capital adequacy. Regulatory concern with off-balance sheet activities arises since they subject a bank to certain risks, including credit risk. Many of the risks involved in these off-balance sheet activities are indeterminable on an offsite-monitoring basis.


General guidance regarding the risks involved with derivatives instruments and the proper recording and accounting are outlined below. Expanded guidance is delineated in the Capital Markets Handbook and the Call Report Glossary and the instructions for RC-L - Derivatives and Off-Balance Sheet Items.

Off-Balance Sheet Lending Activities
An evaluation of off-balance sheet lending activities should apply the same general examination techniques that are used in the evaluation of a direct loan portfolio. For example, banks with a material level of contingent liabilities should have written policies addressing such activities adopted and approved by their board of directors. The policies should cover credit underwriting standards, documentation and file maintenance requirements, collection and review procedures, officer and customer borrowing and lending limits, exposures requiring committee or board approval, and periodic reports to the board of directors. Overall limits on these contingent liabilities and specific sub-limits on the various types of off-balance sheet lending activities, either as a dollar amount or as a relative percentage (such as a percent of total assets or capital), should also be considered. (my bold)

It seems clear why the banks like "off balance sheet activities" and why the FDIC devoted an entire section of their Risk Management Manual to the subject. Less clear is the rationale, if any, for the FDIC to approve this practice.

It would appear that the particular types of off balance sheet activities referenced in the table Chris cited can be quite varied.  The "hopeful" assumption that they may be credit default swaps seems at best unproven at this point.  I don't know whether to be pleased or afraid.  The direction things are going the terms of every default swap ever written could well be fulfilled by the end of the year.  More rich people to bail out?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 09:19:27 PM EST
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