Off-Balance-Sheet Activities

GGD-88-35BR: Published: Mar 17, 1988. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on commercial banks' off-balance-sheet (OBS) activities, focusing on: (1) the growth and volume of OBS activities from 1980 to 1987; (2) eight different OBS activities and the related risks; (3) the primary concerns of U.S. and foreign bank regulators; and (4) recent regulatory proposals requiring banks to maintain capital for certain OBS activities.

GAO found that: (1) current accounting regulations do not require commercial banks to report OBS activities; (2) reported OBS activities increased from $1.4 trillion in 1984 to $2.6 trillion in mid-1987; (3) banks with at least $10 billion in assets conduct most of these activities; (4) banks conduct OBS activities to hedge risks and generate income; and (5) the absence of certain regulatory costs, increased competition from non-banking institutions, fluctuations in interest and foreign exchange rates, and technological advances that facilitated the use of automated systems influenced the growth of OBS activities. GAO also found that federal regulatory officials are concerned about the: (1) adequacy of banks' management of and internal controls for related risks; (2) possible underpricing of certain OBS activities; and (3) possibility of bank failures because of interlinkings among banks. In addition, GAO found that the Federal Reserve System, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have proposed a risk-based capital system, including procedures for assessing risks from certain OBS activities, to more closely align regulatory capital requirements with the risk profiles of individual banks.

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