WASHINGTON At least the administration is being consistent in its bizarre Deposit Insurance Fund projections.
Once again, the Office of Management and Budget's estimates of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. costs are out of step with the FDIC's own projections, and appear out of step even with reality.
In contrast with 16 straight quarters of growth in the fund relative to insured deposits, President Obama's 2015 budget released Tuesday predicts a drop in the DIF's "reserve ratio" to 0.64% by the end of this year. (The ratio stood at 0.79% at the end of last quarter.)
Deciphering the technical budget terminology in the annual OMB release can be puzzling. But the White House year after year releases FDIC spending projections that appear to diverge significantly from figures put out by the agency itself. Based on historical data, however, the FDIC's projections look decidedly more reliable. (Unlike the FDIC, the administration uses fiscal-year budgeting.)
The OMB has an explanation for the disparity, saying the financial crisis essentially led to a much more conservative budgeting model to account for the small chance that the turmoil of 2008 and 2009 could someday repeat itself. But that "recalibrated model," as one OMB official put it, has led to severely disparate estimates.
For example, in the 2013 proposed White House budget, the OMB had projected the FDIC's insurance fund balance would dip into negative territory again and stay there until 2015. In reality, the fund which indeed was technically insolvent in 2009 during the wave of bank failures has remained out of the red since mid-2011.
The 2015 budget was not as extreme. The administration says it expects steady growth in the DIF "from 2015 on," and projects the reserve ratio will hit a congressionally required target of 1.35% by 2020.
Still, in the 2015 spending proposal, the OMB projections regarding resolution costs sharply differ from those of the FDIC.
The FDIC has repeatedly projected a downward trend in failures and costs associated with them. In September, the agency provided another update on projected DIF losses indicating a continued decline. The agency estimated that failure costs from 2013 through 2017 would total $4 billion averaging out to $800 million per year down from an earlier projection of $5 billion. (Preliminary loss calculations for the five banks seized so far this year total just over $92 million.)
Meanwhile, the agency continues to return money back to its insurance fund after essentially having set aside too much in loss reserves for anticipated failures. The agency's loss provision last quarter was negative-$4.6 billion.
That is wildly different from OMB's projections. The administration's budget uses the term "resolution outlays." That appears to refer to failure-related costs, although it is unclear if that is an actual expenditure or a provision to cover future losses or something different. Nonetheless, the estimated outlay for 2014 is a whopping $14 billion an astronomical 1,600% jump from FDIC average annual projected failure costs.
In 2015, the OMB's estimated resolution outlay is $13.4 billion. The estimates for both years are nearly triple what OMB calculated for 2013 resolution outlays.
The OMB official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the budget projections will likely not prove accurate with regard to near-term failure costs, but said the projections are in line with historical trends for failures going back to the 1930s.
"The projected failures assumed in our model are consistent with historical bank failures since the FDIC's inception in 1933," the official said. "Historical losses to the DIF have been concentrated in a few years. It is unlikely that such a year will occur in the near future. Nevertheless our estimates are meant to reflect a small possibility of one of those years occurring. That approach may make our estimates higher than projections that do not reflect that possibility."
But industry observers are still scratching their heads.
"Our take is that the OMB again is completely out of touch with the realities of the FDIC's fund and the FDIC's own projections," said Rob Morgan, a senior research manager for the American Bankers Association.
The administration's budget looks to make up for the costs related to bank failure resolutions with an item called "spending authority from offsetting collections." That sounds like it is referring to what the FDIC collects in insurance premiums paid by the industry. The authority estimated for 2014 is $20 billion, while $25.7 billion is estimated for 2015. Both figures are over 200% more than what OMB said was actually collected in 2013.