What to take away from the Fed’s stress tests

David Brancaccio Mar 14, 2012

David Brancaccio: Probing deeper into the cracks that emerged when the Federal Reserve did the torture test on banks, it’s tough to get past the few that did not make the grade. One in particular carries the sort of risk you might expect in maybe a sub-prime lender.

Wall Street veteran Christopher Whalen, vice-chair of Institutional Risk Analytics, joins us.  Good morning, Chris.

Chris Whalen: Good morning.

Brancaccio: Here’s a question for you: do you think players in the stock market today are going to wake up to the fact that while so many big banks did well in the stress test yesterday, one very big whale did not — Citigroup?

Whalen: Well it’s because they assume the top four banks are similar. They’re not. Each one of them has a very different business model. This is what people don’t understand. It is a sub-prime business. Also, look at Wells Fargo. They didn’t do so well either. I think Wall Street has to just understand that the top four have different business models, each one.

Brancaccio: What do you make, Chris, of JP Morgan Chase trumpeting its high marks in the stress test, like an hour and a half before the Federal Reserve made it official? We had some other banks grumbling about that.

Whalen: Well no, they did more than that. Jamie Dimon jumped the gun two days. Jamie Dimon forced the Fed to disclose the results two days early.

Brancaccio: You think so? I see the Wall Street Journal reports that they have enior Federal Reserve source who says no, JP Morgan was not at fault for going early, it was just a miscommunication.

Whalen: Well, I think the assumption was the Fed was going to announce the aggregate results first and be fair to everyone. But the folks at JP didn’t feel like waiting. They already knew what the results were, clearly. And you can argue that they should disclose them as soon as they’re aware of them but, I think the protocol was supposed to be that the Fed goes first but you know, Jamie Dimon doesn’t like to wait, he likes to go first — so that’s what happened.

Brancaccio: Chris Whalen, vice-chair of Institutional Risk Analytics. Thank you very much.

Whalen: Thank you.

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