Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Window Dressing"

Three big banks -- Bank of America Corp., Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc. -— are among the most active at temporarily shedding debt just before reporting their finances to the public, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows.

The practice, known as end-of-quarter "window dressing" on Wall Street, suggests that the banks are carrying more risk most of the time than their investors or customers can easily see. This activity has accelerated since 2008, when the financial crisis brought actions like these under greater scrutiny, according to the analysis.

The Journal reported last month that 18 large banks, as a group, had routinely reduced their short-term borrowings in this way. The new analysis looks at individual banks.

Over the past 10 quarters, the three banks have lowered their net borrowings in the "repurchase," or repo, market by an average of 41% at the ends of the quarters, compared with their average net repo borrowings for the entire quarter, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data. Once a new quarter begins, they boost those levels.

Read the whole thing.