Does Fair Value Accounting Contribute to Systemic Risk in the Banking Industry?
Posted: 31 May 2019
Date Written: December 5, 2018
I investigate whether fair value accounting can contribute to the banking industry’s systemic risk. I focus on the adoption of SFAS No. 115, which required available-for-sale (AFS) securities to be recognized at fair value with unrealized gains and losses included in equity through accumulated other comprehensive income. SFAS No. 115 increased banks’ regulatory risk because, at the time, calculation of regulatory capital closely conformed with GAAP equity. I find that systemic risk increased following the adoption of SFAS No. 115. Furthermore, following a subsequent regulatory amendment—which excluded unrealized gains and losses on AFS securities from regulatory capital but did not change their GAAP treatment—systemic risk decreased. Taken together, the evidence suggests that fair value accounting has the potential to increase systemic risk through the explicit inclusion of volatile fair value estimates in regulatory bank capital adequacy assessments. I do not, however, find evidence of fair value accounting impacting systemic risk in its information role; that is, by providing information to a bank’s external stakeholders about its financial position and performance. I also show that higher fair value volatility of investment securities, lower bank capital, and larger AFS security holdings increase banks’ marginal contribution to systemic risk. My findings should interest regulators and policymakers as recent regulatory changes in light of Basel III recommendations require unrealized gains and losses on AFS securities to be included in regulatory capital for advanced approaches banks.
Keywords: fair value accounting, systemic risk, available-for-sale securities, prudential AOCI filter, banking, Basel III
JEL Classification: G01, G21, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation