Can banks circumvent minimum capital requirements? The case of mortgage portfolios under Basel II
The recent mortgage crisis has resulted in several bank failures as the number of mortgage defaults increased. The current Basel I capital framework does not require banks to hold sufficient amounts of capital to support their mortgage lending activities. The new Basel II capital rules are intended to correct this problem. However, Basel II models could become too complex and too costly to implement, often resulting in a trade-off between complexity and model accuracy. In addition, the variation of the model, particularly how mortgage portfolios are segmented, could have a significant impact on the default and loss estimated and, thus, could affect the amount of capital that banks are required to hold. This paper finds that the calculated Basel II capital varies considerably across the default prediction model and segmentation schemes, thus providing banks with an incentive to choose an approach that results in the least required capital for them. The authors also find that a more granular segmentation model produces smaller required capital, regardless of the economic environment. In addition, while borrowers' credit risk factors are consistently superior, economic factors have also played a role in mortgage default during the financial crisis.
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