July 22, 2009
GAO Issues Report on Leverage at Financial Institutions
The GAO issued a report on Financial Crisis Highlights Need to Improve Oversight of Leverage at Financial Institutions and across System. It explains that the purpose of the report is to study the role of leverage in the current financial crisis and federal oversight of leverage. GAO’s objectives were to review (1) how leveraging and deleveraging by financial institutions may have contributed to the crisis, (2) regulations adopted by federal financial regulators to limit leverage and how regulators oversee compliance with the regulations, and (3) any limitations the current crisis has revealed in regulatory approaches used to restrict leverage and regulatory proposals to address them. To meet these objectives, GAO built on its existing body of work, reviewed relevant laws and regulations and academic and other studies, and interviewed regulators and market participants.
What GAO Recommends
As Congress considers establishing a systemic risk regulator, it should consider the merits of assigning such a regulator with responsibility for overseeing systemwide leverage. As U.S. regulators continue to consider reforms to strengthen oversight of leverage, we recommend that they assess the extent to which reforms under Basel II, a new risk-based capital framework, will address risk evaluation and regulatory oversight concerns associated with advanced modeling approaches used for capital adequacy purposes. In their written comments, the regulators generally agreed with our conclusions and recommendation.
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