The Adoption of Stress Testing: Why the Basel Capital Measures Were Not Enough

Larry D. Wall
Working Paper 2013-14
December 2013

Download the full text of this paper (138 KB) pdf

The Basel capital adequacy ratios lost credibility with financial markets during the crisis. This paper argues that failure was the result of the reliance of the Basel standards on overstated asset values in reported equity capital. The United States' stress tests were able to assist in restoring credibility, in part because they could capture deterioration in asset values. However, whether stress tests will prove equally valuable in the next crisis is not clear. Some of the weaknesses in the Basel ratios are being addressed. Moreover, the U.S. tests' success was the result of a combination of circumstances that may not exist next time.

JEL classification: G01, G21, G28, E50

Key words: Basel capital ratios, stress test, financial crisis

The author thanks Scott Frame, Gillian Garcia, Bev Hirtle, and participants at the Banking Law Symposium Workshop "Who Wants Big Banks?" for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. The views expressed here are the authors' and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors' responsibility.

Please address questions regarding content to Larry D. Wall, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1000 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309-4470, 404-498-8937,

Use the WebScriber Service to receive e-mail e-mail notifications about new papers.