Mark-To-Market Manipulation Hides $90 Billion Losses For UK Banks
Some have attributed the resurrection of the financial markets (or more appropriately the banks) from the March 2009 lows to the IASB/FASB changes to factual to fantasy accounting. The Telegraph reports today that from PIRC's and the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee that while banker bonuses continue to rise (for now), 'hidden' losses among UK banks could total GBP60 Billion (USD 90 Billion). HSBC topped the list with GBP10.4 Billion in bad debts that have yet to be written off and while the 'accounting' bodies are suggesting they will address criticism of this farce, as one analyst notes, they "can still make unprofitable lending appear profitable." Regulators expect to hear plans from lenders on how they intend to fill these holes before the end of the month to coincide either with the FPC’s meeting on March 19 or a statement scheduled for March 27. While outright recaps are unlikely, banks are expected to
restructure and set out plans to raise their capital levels over the next
couple of years. More fantasy...
PIRC has calculated the amount of bad debts the banks may have to write off in coming years but have yet to subtract from profits, together with other items such as deferred bonuses not booked.
HSBC, which is the biggest bank by assets, was shown to have £10.4bn of hidden losses, the Royal Bank of Scotland has £9.4bn, and Barclays has £7.3bn. Lloyds Banking Group has £2.5bn and Standard Chartered £2.2bn. Together the undeclared losses total £31.8bn.
The research shows the distorting impact the accounting rules, which allow bad loans to remain hidden, have on bank results.
Apart from Basel rules that require banks to declare half the expected losses over a year, bad loans and expected losses do not appear in the banks’ accounts under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
Last week the London-based IASB, which sets accounting rules for all listed companies in a raft of countries, agreed to address criticism of IFRS with plans for tougher capital requirements against expected losses. However, the provisions only have to be for losses expect over 12 months. The US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) changed its rules in December to demand provisions for the life of the loan, as UK GAAP did too.
Tim Bush, head of financial analysis at PIRC and long-term critic of IFRS, said: “The 12 months expected loss is neither here nor there. It is clear that bad loans in RBS and HBOS on lending in 2006 and 2007 took four or five years to come through, the 12 month view can still make unprofitable lending appear profitable... ”
The warning follows regulatory pressure to force the UK’s banks and building societies to disclose their hidden losses, which supervisors at the Bank of England have suggested could total as much as £60bn. Lenders have just weeks left to clarify present the regulators with plans to fill the holes.
An announcement on the industry’s response is expected before the end of the month to coincide either with the FPC’s meeting on March 19 or a statement scheduled for March 27.
Outright recapitalisations are unlikely, though. Banks are expected to restructure and set out plans to raise their capital levels over the next couple of years.