There can’t be a crisis if we keep it under the rug, eh?

Federal banking regulators issue new guidelines permitting banks to hide non-performing loans. Your borrower’s loan is due? The assets securing his loan has fallen to 30% of its original value and he can’t refinance it or pay you back? Hey, don’t worry – the government doesn’t want to alarm folks by showing the destruction of value of bank’s portfolios so now you can just “restructure the loan in a prudent fashion” and presto! No problem, pal.

Just don’t count on ever getting paid back.

Federal bank regulators issued guidelines allowing banks to keep loans on their books as “performing” even if the value of the underlying properties have fallen below the loan amount.

The volume of troubled commercial real-estate loans is skyrocketing. Regulators said that the rules were designed to encourage banks to restructure problem commercial mortgages with borrowers rather than foreclose on them. But the move has prompted criticism that regulators are simply prolonging the financial crisis by not forcing borrowers and lenders to confront, rather than delay, inevitable problems.


Critics say the new rules are yet another example of a head-in-the-sand approach by regulators, pointing to the relaxed accounting standards last year that enabled banks to avoid marking the value of the loans down. This is doing long-term damage to the economy, they say, because it ties up bank capital, preventing them from resuming lending.

Critics say a wiser approach would be for regulators and banks to deal with problems quickly like the Resolution Trust Corp. did in the early 1990s during the last commercial real-estate crash. Back then, the RTC helped purge the financial system of toxic mortgages.

The new guidance “gives people a long time to figure out they’re not going to pay it back,” said Douglas Durst, a leading New York City developer. “We are in a period where nothing is happening,” he said, adding that banks are “not making any new loans because they have this bad debt on their books and not writing it down and getting rid of it.”

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One response to “There can’t be a crisis if we keep it under the rug, eh?

  1. Retired IB'er

    But, hey, we’re not like Japan at all…