By Katy Burne and Ryan Tracy
The Government Accountability Office is set to release Tuesday the results of its long-awaited review into the Federal Reserve's "stress tests," annual health checkups for the biggest U.S. banks.
GAO spokesman Charles Young said the office's report on the stress tests was scheduled to be released Tuesday around 11 a.m. EST. The review began around January 2015, but once complete such reports by the independent agency must go through quality assurance procedures.
The review followed a September 2014 request by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) to "better understand the costs, benefits and effectiveness" of the stress tests and other Fedbanking oversight activities, according to a copy of a letter he wrote May 26 to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen.
Mr. Hensarling also expressed concern in that letter about how the Fed was carrying out the tests, and a perceived lack of transparency by the central bank when conducting its assessments.
The GAO report, which runs to around 100 pages, has at least 15 recommendations in it, including one about opportunities to enhance transparency and disclosures, according to a person briefed on its contents.
Its scope also focuses on how the Fed's various stress tests and risk models compare, and its qualitative assessments of a bank's financial health. Specifically, the GAO addressed how the Fed designed its hypothetical scenarios for stress testing the regulated institutions, and examines the Fed's modeling procedures for deficiencies, the person added.
Eric Kollig, a spokesman for the Federal Reserve, had no comment on thestress test review process.
The GAO report comes at a crucial time: Republican critics of the tests are just months away from taking control of the White House and Congress. House Republicans requested the report and could use its conclusions to shape their legislative agenda next year.
Critics of the Fed's stress testing regime have said the regulator doesn't allow sufficient public input into the way the tests are designed. Some in the banking industry have contemplated suing the Fed, arguing it is using the tests to set bank capital rules without soliciting the public input required in a federal rule-making.
House Republicans earlier this year proposed legislation that would force the Fed to publish more information about the tests and to solicit public input on them more often.
In September, the Fed proposed easing stress test requirements for banks with less than $250 billion in assets, in a reprieve for U.S. regional lenders. Fed officials say they have taken other steps to make the test more transparent, including holding an annual conference where they discuss them.
Globally, banks spent about $29 billion on consultants last year, much of it for stress tests, according to analysis firm ALM Intelligence reported by The Wall Street Journal in June.
Write to Katy Burne at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ryan Tracy at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 14, 2016 17:01 ET (22:01 GMT)
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