TARP Hearing Highlights CRE Problems

Congressional members voiced concern at a TARP hearing that that many banks are not prepared to deal with the coming wave of commercial real estate loan defaults. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, went on record to say “I am very concerned about the ticking time bomb we face in commercial real estate lending”.  The hearing comes off the heels of an update from the Congressional Oversight Panel on TARP, which faulted recent stress tests because the economic assumptions used in the tests were unrealistically optimistic and only ran through 2010.  Congressional Oversight Panel chair Elizabeth Warren noted that the U.S. unemployment rate projected for 2009 under the stress tests’ “worst-case scenario” was 8.9%, but “we’re now at 9.4%,”  Warren has suggested that the stress tests be redone with tougher assumptions and continue as long as the banks hold troubled assets.  Warren also suggested allowing outside analysts to replicate the stress tests in addition to revising the stress-test methodology because “the worst case scenario in 2009 is in fact not the worst case”.

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