On Friday, the Federal Reserve will release the results of its latest stress tests for banks. Stress tests were introduced after the financial crisis to make sure banks could survive — and continue lending — through another downturn. They’re done every year, and they include running the bank’s financials through worst-case economic scenarios, like skyrocketing unemployment and tanking home prices. This year, though, the Fed is exempting these 17 banks from the tests:
- Ally Financial Inc.
- American Express Co.
- BB&T Corp.
- BBVA Compass Bancshares Inc.
- BMO Financial Corp.
- BNP Paribas USA Inc.
- Citizens Financial Group Inc.
- Discover Financial Services
- Fifth Third Bancorp
- Huntington Bancshares Inc.
- M&T Bank Corp.
- MUFG Americas Holdings Corp.
- RBC US Group Holdings LLC
- Regions Financial Corporation
- Santander Holdings USA Inc.
- SunTrust Banks Inc.
These banks will now take stress tests every two years instead. That’s now the case for most banks with assets between $100 billion and $250 billion.
Peter Conti-Brown, a financial historian at the Wharton School, said banks have long complained that stress tests are expensive and time consuming. “And so the Fed’s thinking is, you know, we’ve got other ways of making sure that the financial system is resilient, and it’s unnecessary for us to put the same regulatory burdens on these quote unquote smaller banks,” he said.
The Fed said the 17 banks also tend to focus on less risky activities, like home and car lending, not investment banking.
Saule Omarova, a law professor at Cornell University, says this change is risky.
“It deprives the supervisors and bank management of this opportunity to spot potential structural problems and have time to address those problems,” she said.
Some of the exempt banks, like BB&T and Santander, have failed their stress tests before. But they all passed last year.