Examiner Assessment of Commercial
DATE: January 3, 2003
TO: Michael J. Zamorski, Director, Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection
FROM: Russell A. Rau [Electronically produced version; original signed by Russell Rau], Assistant Inspector General for Audits
SUBJECT: Examiner Assessment of Commercial Real Estate Loans (Audit Report No. 03-008)
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit of the Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection’s (DSC) assessment of commercial real estate loans in the course of safety and soundness examinations. (Note: For purpose of this review, the OIG defined commercial real estate loans as loans secured by real estate, including real estate loans secured by multifamily residential properties, non-farm nonresidential properties, and construction and land development loans. Loans secured by or for the construction and development of farmland and one-to-four family residential properties were excluded.)
The objectives of this audit were to determine whether: (1) the examiners fully assessed appraised value, cash flow, and lending policies in their examination of commercial real estate (CRE) loans and (2) the examiners’ strategies for assessing a significant level of CRE loan growth were sufficient for identifying increased risk. While our audit addressed both objectives, the subject matter and results were distinct enough that we have prepared separate reports to address each objective. This audit report addresses our work with regard to audit objective (1) above and covers our assessment of examiner analysis of appraisals, cash flow, and lending policies. A separate report addressing objective (2) has been issued.
To accomplish the audit objective, we reviewed Reports of Examination for 35 banks identified as having commercial real estate portfolios totaling 300 percent or more of Tier 1 Capital. (Note: The Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection Manual of Examination Policies provides a definition of Tier 1 Capital as the sum of: common stockholders' equity (common stock and related surplus, undivided profits, disclosed capital reserves, and foreign currency translation adjustments, less net unrealized losses on available-for-sale equity securities with readily determinable fair values); and noncumulative perpetual preferred stock and minority interests in consolidated subsidiaries; minus: all intangible assets (other than limited amounts of mortgage servicing rights and purchased credit card relationships and certain grandfathered supervisory goodwill); identified losses (to the extent that Tier 1 capital would have been reduced if the appropriate accounting entries to reflect the identified losses had been recorded on the institution's books); investments in securities subsidiaries subject to section 337.4; and deferred tax assets in excess of the limit set forth in section 325.5(g).) The banks selected for review were located in metropolitan areas that the FDIC had identified as potentially overbuilt in the commercial real estate sector. We also reviewed the DSC examination workpaper files associated with 248 loans made from these 35 banks. Appendix I contains additional details on our objectives, scope, and methodology.
Between 1980 and 1994, more than 1,600 banks insured by the FDIC were closed or received FDIC financial assistance. Many of the banks that failed during that time were very active participants in the commercial real estate markets. Historical analysis of the banking crisis of the 1980s has revealed that concentrations of real estate loans relative to total assets were higher for banks that failed than for banks that did not fail. (Note: History of the Eighties–Lessons for the Future, Volume 1, prepared by the FDIC Division of Research and Statistics (now part of the FDIC's Division of Insurance and Research).) During this period, large demand for real estate investments produced a boom in commercial real estate construction activity. In addition, overly optimistic appraisals, together with the relaxation of debt service coverage ratios (DSCR), the reduction in the maximum loan-to-value (LTV) ratios, and the loosening of underwriting standards, often meant that borrowers frequently had little or no equity at stake, and in some cases lenders bore most or all of the risk. (Note: The Barron’s Business Guide’s, Dictionary of Banking Terms defines the term debt service coverage ratio as the financial ratio measuring a borrower’s ability to meet payments on a loan after paying expenses. The ratio measures the number of times loan principal and interest payments are covered by net (after tax) income. It is generally applied to income property such as apartment buildings and multi-tenant office buildings. FDIC Rules and Regulations, 12 C.F.R. Part 365, Appendix A – Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies, defines the term loan-to-value as "the percentage or ratio that is derived at the time of loan origination by dividing an extension of credit by the total value of the property(ies) securing or being improved by the extension of credit plus the amount of any readily marketable collateral and other acceptable collateral that secures the extension of credit…Value means an opinion or estimate, set forth in an appraisal or evaluation…of the market value of real property…For loans to purchase an existing property, the term ‘value’ means the lesser of the actual acquisition cost or the estimate of value." FDIC Rules and Regulations, 12 C.F.R. Part 365, Appendix A – Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies, indicates that "Prudently underwritten real estate loans should reflect all relevant credit factors, including: The capacity of the borrower, or income from the underlying property, to adequately service the debt. The value of the mortgaged property. The overall creditworthiness of the borrower. The level of equity invested in the property. Any secondary sources of repayment. Any additional collateral or credit enhancements (such as guarantees, mortgage insurance or takeout commitments)." The Barron’s Business Guide’s Dictionary of Banking Terms defines bank underwriting as the detailed credit analysis preceding the granting of a loan, based on credit information furnished by the borrower, such as employment history, salary, and financial statements; publicly available information, such as the borrower’s credit history, which is detailed in a credit report; and the lender’s evaluation of the borrower’s credit needs and ability to pay.)
In each year from 1980 through 1994, the concentrations of commercial real estate loans relative to total assets were higher for banks that failed than for banks that remained open. In 1980, commercial real estate loans of banks that failed constituted approximately 6 percent of their total assets; in 1993, almost 30 percent.
In response to the problems experienced by banks in the 1980s, a number of requirements were put in place by statute and regulation. Section 304 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991, amending 12 U.S.C. 1818, required each federal banking agency to adopt uniform regulations prescribing standards for real estate lending. In 1993, the FDIC issued standards that require institutions to adopt and maintain a written policy that establishes appropriate limits and standards for all extensions of credit that are secured by liens or interests in real estate made for the purpose of financing the construction of a building or other improvements. Further, the lending policies must establish:
FDIC Rules and Regulations, 12 C.F.R. Part 323, Appraisals, effective September 19, 1990, provided protection for federal financial and public policy interests in real estate-related transactions by requiring real estate appraisals used in connection with federally related transactions to be performed in writing, in accordance with uniform standards, by appraisers whose competency has been demonstrated and whose professional conduct will be subject to effective supervision. This part covers all transactions entered into by the FDIC or by institutions regulated by the FDIC. This regulation identifies which real estate-related transactions require the services of an appraiser; prescribes which categories of federally related transactions shall be appraised by a state-certified appraiser and which by a state-licensed appraiser; and prescribes minimum standards for the performance of the real estate appraisals in connection with federally related transactions under the jurisdiction of the FDIC.
Interagency guidelines were also developed addressing maximum LTV limits. (Note: FDIC Rules and Regulations, 12 C.F.R. Part 365, Appendix A – Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies, states that these guidelines are intended to assist institutions in the formulation and maintenance of a real estate lending policy that is appropriate to the size of the institution and the nature and scope of its individual operations and that satisfies the requirements of the regulations.) Institutions should establish their own internal LTV limits for real estate loans; however, their internal limits should not exceed established supervisory limits. Supervisory limits specify that institutions should not generally originate commercial, multifamily, and other non-residential loans that have an LTV ratio that exceeds 80 percent of the market value of the collateral securing the loan.
First issued in 1996, the FDIC's semiannual Report on Underwriting Practices is one of a number of FDIC initiatives aimed at providing early warnings of potential problems in the banking system. At the conclusion of each examination that the FDIC conducts, examiners complete a survey of underwriting practices. By systematically collecting these observations from examinations, the report is designed to provide an early warning mechanism for identifying potential problems. The information gathered during examinations at FDIC-supervised banks helps identify potential weaknesses in underwriting practices meriting additional attention during onsite examinations.
In addition, the FDIC developed an offsite model in 1999 for identifying institutions that may be susceptible to a downturn in the local commercial real estate market. This model, called the Real Estate Stress Test (REST), attempts to identify financial institutions that may be vulnerable to a real estate crisis similar to what occurred in New England in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when market values of CRE dropped precipitously. REST uses current Call Report data to forecast a financial institution’s condition over a 3- to 5-year time horizon and assigns a rating based on the CAMELS scale of 1 to 5. (Note: The FDIC uses an examination rating system to uniformly reflect (1) the financial condition of an institution; (2) compliance with laws and regulations; and (3) overall operating soundness. The primary purpose of the rating is to identify any institution with weaknesses in these three areas that warrant special supervisory attention. The examination rating, known as CAMELS, represents the examiner’s judgment of an institution’s Capital adequacy, Asset quality, Management, Earnings, Liquidity, and Sensitivity to market risk. An institution is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with "1" indicating strong performance and "5" indicating poor performance.) The primary risk factor in the REST score is the institution’s level of construction and development loans.
The onsite safety and soundness examination is a critical aspect of the supervisory framework that helps to promote confidence and stability in the nation's banking industry. Through onsite safety and soundness examinations, risks to insured institutions are identified and communicated to the institution's management and board of directors. The DSC Manual of Examination Policies (DSC Manual) notes that examiners devote a large portion of their time and attention to the examination of bank loan portfolios.
RESULTS OF AUDIT
Examiners could have better assessed appraised value and cash
flow in the examinations we reviewed. Specifically,
With regard to lending policies, examiners documented their work in varying degrees. In each case, the Reports of Examination or the examination workpapers contained indications that the examiners had reviewed the lending policies as part of the examination. However, we could not determine whether these reviews were adequate.
Our audit also identified DSC regional office best practices related to the lending area, which are presented in Appendix II.
EVALUATION OF APPRAISALS
Examiners were not consistently using the lesser of the acquisition cost or appraised value to compute the LTV ratios, using new financial information to update old appraisal assumptions, and documenting the results of their review of appraisals. Lack of emphasis on the definition for the term "value" contributed to instances where examiners failed to ensure adherence to the regulatory guidelines for computing LTV ratios. Incorrect computation of the LTV ratio, reliance on outdated financial information, and lack of an in-depth review of appraisals can cause potential losses to the institution to go undetected.
Computation of LTV Ratios
Our review of the computation of LTV ratios showed that examiners are not consistently recognizing the acquisition cost as a measure of collateral value when computing LTV ratios. FDIC Rules and Regulations, 12 C.F.R. Part 365, Appendix A, Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies, states that LTV ratios should be based on the lesser of the actual acquisition cost or the estimate of value (appraised value). However, we found instances where examiners did not follow interagency guidelines when computing the LTV ratio. In fact, we noted cases where the LTV ratios appeared to conform to the recommended supervisory values, but when recalculated using the lesser of the acquisition cost or appraised value, the LTV ratios were actually in excess of the recommended supervisory limits. As loans in excess of the supervisory limit have a higher level of risk to the institution, using an improper basis in the computation of the LTV ratio can cause potential losses to the institution to go undetected.
The interagency guidelines are intended to help institutions satisfy the regulatory requirements by outlining the general factors to consider when developing real estate lending standards. The guidelines suggest maximum supervisory LTV limits for various categories of real estate loans and explain how the agencies will monitor their use. Institutions are expected to establish LTV limits consistent with their needs. They should not exceed the recommended supervisory LTV limits as shown in Table 1:
Table 1: Maximum Recommended LTV Limits
Source: 12 C.F.R. Part 365, Appendix A, Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies.
The LTV relates to only one of several pertinent credit factors that need to be considered when underwriting a real estate loan. In particular, the "five C’s of credit" include a consideration of the borrower’s collateral, capacity, character, capital, and conditions. The first four factors apply to the borrower’s ability to pay, whereas the last one refers to general business conditions in the borrower’s industry. According to FDIC Rules and Regulations, 12 C.F.R. Part 365, Appendix A, it may be appropriate in some situations to originate loans that exceed the supervisory LTV limits if enough support is provided by other credit factors. However, loans exceeding the LTV limits should be identified in the institution’s records, and their aggregate amount reported at least quarterly to the institution’s board of directors. The aggregate amount of all loans in excess of the supervisory maximum LTV limits should not exceed 100 percent of total capital.
Our sample contained loans that were made by the institutions for various purposes, including the purchase of CRE, the refinancing of CRE, and the rehabilitation of CRE properties. We identified 100 loans in our sample that were made for the purchase of CRE, and we concentrated our analysis of LTV calculations on these 100 CRE loans.
By reviewing the workpapers associated with the 100 loans, we determined that examiners did not document the loan’s acquisition cost in 60 of 100 (60 percent) cases. Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies require that in situations where the acquisition cost is lower than the appraised value, the acquisition cost should be used in the calculation of the LTV. Use of the appraised value in these circumstances can produce overstated LTV ratios and inconsistent examination results from one institution to the next. Therefore, it is important that in these situations, examiners record and use the acquisition cost so that they can more accurately assess the risk associated with the loan.
For the remaining 40 loans, the acquisition cost was recorded in the examiner’s workpapers, and we were able to perform further analysis on these 40 loans. We noted that in most cases (77.5 percent of the time) the examiners did not use the lesser of the acquisition cost or the appraised value when computing the LTV ratio. The details of our review of the 40 loans is shown in Figure 1 below:
Figure 1: LTV Analysis
[This image appears in the non-508-compliant version of the audit report.]
Text description of Figure 1: The examiner did not use the lesser of the acquisition cost or the appraised value to compute the LTV ratio in 31 out of 40 CRE loans analyzed (77.5 percent). The examiner did use the lesser of the acquisition cost or the appraised value to compute the LTV ratio in 5 out of 40 CRE loans analyzed (12.5 percent). The acquisition cost and the appraised values were equal in 4 of the 40 loans reviewed (10 percent).
Source: OIG Analysis of DSC’s examination workpapers that were obtained from field offices in the San Francisco and Dallas regions.
As part of our review, we re-calculated LTV ratios using loan value based on the lesser of the acquisition cost or appraised value. When calculated in this manner, we found that 8 of the 40 loans (20 percent) had LTV ratios in excess of the recommended supervisory limits as shown in the following table:
Table 2: LTV Ratio Computations Using the Appraised Value vs. the Acquisition Cost
Source: Loan line sheets obtained from DSC examination workpapers in field offices in the San Francisco and Dallas regions.
We reviewed the eight loans shown in Table 2 and noted that two of the loans that exceeded the supervisory limits also had loan line sheets that listed the LTV ratio, either in part or as the sole reason for rating the loan as a "pass." (Note: Pass – This term is generally used to indicate that based upon the examiner’s review, a particular credit (loan) met specific requirements and that the loan is performing as agreed. Adversely classified loans are allocated on the basis of risk to three categories: substandard, doubtful, and loss.)
While the LTV ratio alone may not be a sufficient reason to drop a loan’s rating from pass to substandard, the ratio taken with other factors could cause an examiner to downgrade a loan. To make an accurate assessment of the loan’s collateral value, examiners should take the conservative approach and use the lowest asset value in their analysis.
DSC regional management commented that computation of the LTV ratio is a secondary issue in the examination of loans. They further indicated that loan performance is the primary issue of concern during an examination. If a loan is performing, then the examiner should ensure that the borrower has the ability to continue to meet payments. While we recognize that loan performance is an important factor in assessing the loan, computation of the LTV ratio using the lower of the acquisition cost or appraised value is necessary to assess bank compliance with the regulations and sufficiency of the collateral to protect against risk.
Use of Updated Financial Information in Assessment of Appraisals
Many of the loans in our sample had appraisals that were not current. While banks had obtained updated financial information, in most cases the new financial information was not used to update prior appraisal assumptions. The DSC Manual, Section 3.1, Loans, identifies factors that could cause changes to originally reported appraisal values, including the passage of time, the volatility of the local market, and the availability of financing. While older appraisals are not always a problem, it is prudent to use the updated financial information in loan analysis computations. Use of outdated financial information can cause potential losses to the institution to go undetected.
Review of the Examination Documentation Module - Commercial/Industrial Real Estate Loan Review – Credit Analysis #12, 12A, and 12B, shows that examiners should consider the reasonableness of the facts and assumptions used in the most recent appraisal or evaluation. If material deviations from facts or assumptions are determined, examiners should adjust the estimated value of the property, if reasonably possible and supportable, for the purpose of the credit analysis. Factors that examiners should consider include the following:
Many of the loans in our sample had appraisals that were outdated. Approximately one-third of the appraisals associated with loans in our sample (91 of 248 loans) were at least 18 months old, and one was as old as 114 months. Of these 91 loans, we identified 67 instances where banks had obtained updated information from the borrowers. However, the examination workpapers showed that examiners only used this updated information in four cases. In the other 63 cases, there was no evidence in the workpaper files that examiners took advantage of the new financial information or used it to update old appraisal assumptions.
Using updated appraisal assumptions could be beneficial in instances where the financial institution is characterized by high concentrations of commercial real estate and also high loan growth. In these cases, there may be sufficient risk to the insurance fund so that examiners should take the extra steps to ensure that they are using the most recent financial information available to reach conclusions about the creditworthiness of the institution’s loan portfolio.
DSC guidance does not instruct examiners to use new financial information to update appraisals. DSC regional management commented that examiners generally do not reassess appraisal values, update financial data contained in the appraisals, or perform an analysis on a loan’s collateral unless there is a problem with the loan, such as a case where the loan is non-performing. Further, regional management stated that time pressures restrict the review process, and FDIC regulations do not require a new appraisal on collateral. If the loan is performing, a new appraisal is not considered important.
DSC management has taken the position that the value of collateral would only be reassessed once weaknesses in the repayment capacity of the obligor have been identified. However, once these weaknesses are identified, the loan would probably be considered substandard and a review of the collateral at this stage would serve more for identifying loss rather than preventing loss.
Examiner Review of Appraisals
Based on our review of CRE loans, we noted that examiners were not consistently documenting the results of their review of appraisals and, therefore, we could not determine the adequacy of examiner review of appraisals. Specifically, the loan line cards and real estate line cards did not always show whether examiners were following DSC guidance and performing an in-depth review of the appraised value of the loan’s collateral. (Note: Loan line cards, also known as line sheets, are prepared by examiners or generated from automated files to present general loan information for each line of credit reviewed. Line sheets should contain sufficient supporting data to substantiate the examiners' pass or adverse classification of a line of credit. Real estate line cards are prepared by examiners to document review of real estate loans. Real estate line cards are designed to capture data applicable to the review of appraisals, and provide examiners with the mechanism for recording the results of their review and documenting exceptions or compliance with appraisal regulations.) We also noted that some examiners may not have received the appropriate training in appraisal review, and DSC management expressed concern about the discontinuance of the FDIC’s appraisal school and the resulting gaps in training for new examiners. The DSC Manual directs examiners to review appraisals to determine whether appraisal methods, assumptions, and findings are reasonable and in compliance with regulations, supervisory guidelines, and the bank’s own policies. Also, internal DSC guidance directs examiners to demonstrate a clear trail of decisions and supporting logic, and provide written support for verification of procedures performed during the examination. If examiners do not perform an in-depth review of appraisals, they may accept appraisals with inflated values, and potential losses to the institution may go undetected.
FDIC Rules and Regulations, 12 C.F.R. Part 323, Appraisals, provides protection for federal financial and public policy interests in real estate-related transactions by requiring real estate appraisals used in connection with federally related transactions to be performed in writing, in accordance with uniform standards, by appraisers whose competency has been demonstrated and whose professional conduct will be subject to effective supervision. Further, Section 323.4 also establishes minimum appraisal standards for these transactions. The minimum standards include the following:
The DSC Manual of Examination Policies – Loans, Section 3.1, Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines, states "when an examiner analyzes individual transactions, examiners will review an appraisal or evaluation to determine whether the methods, assumptions, and findings are reasonable and in compliance with the agencies’ appraisal regulations, policies, supervisory guidelines, and the institution’s policies."
The current DSC Regional Directors Memorandum entitled, Guidelines for Examination Workpapers and Discretionary Use of Examination Documentation Modules, dated September 25, 2001, states that "…Examination documentation should demonstrate a clear trail of decisions and supporting logic within a given area. Documentation should provide written support for examination and verification procedures performed, conclusions reached, and support the assertions of fact or opinion in the financial schedules and narrative comments in the Report of Examination...Documents maintained in the final workpapers should…provide an audit trail of the examination findings." (Note: Examination Documentation Modules are an examination tool used by DSC examiners that focuses on risk management practices and guides examiners to establish the appropriate examination scope. Examination Documentation Modules incorporate questions and points of consideration that should be included in examination procedures. A module has been developed to specifically address a bank’s risk management strategies for each of the bank’s major business activities.)
We observed that in 144 of the 248 sampled loans, all three approaches to value were not listed on the line cards. Therefore, we could not be certain that examiners had reviewed the appraiser’s methodology or compliance with Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) in arriving at an estimated market value of the loan’s collateral. An appraiser uses three market value approaches (cost, income, and comparable sales) to analyze the value of a property. (Note: The DSC Manual states that an appraiser uses three market value approaches to analyze the value of a property – cost, income, and comparable sales – and reconciles the results of each to estimate market value. An appraisal will discuss the property’s recent sales history and contain an opinion as to the highest and best use of the property.) These estimates of value should be taken into consideration by the appraiser when assigning the market value of the loan’s underlying collateral. Further, USPAP standards require that when an appraiser departs from this procedure and one or more methods are not used to arrive at market value, the appraiser is to document the reason for the omission in the appraisal report.
On most real estate line cards, the examiner did not provide a reason why a valuation method was missing. Specifically, in 132 out of 144 loans where one or more of the methods were missing from the line cards, there was no explanation on the real estate line cards as to why a method was missing. Because appraisers are required to consider all three methods when assigning market value to the collateral, omission of one of the methods from the appraisal would be an exception that examiners should note in the examination working papers.
We noted that in 51 out of the 248 loans in our sample, examiners did not use real estate line cards to record the results of their review of appraisals. Use of the real estate line cards in place of the standard line cards is not a DSC requirement, and their use is at the option of the examiner. However, the real estate line card contains sections to specifically capture data critical to an in-depth review of appraisals.
According to one regional director, documenting the three methods of valuation for the loan analysis is unnecessary. Furthermore, the regional director stated that examiners are under time pressure during examinations, and this time pressure prevents documentation and review at this level. Examiners are not trying to document their analysis of appraisals when no problem exists, but are documenting any exceptions from the bank’s internal appraisal policies or from FDIC rules and regulations. However, our sample included CRE loans in markets where the demand for CRE loans was declining, and in these markets we would expect to see an increased effort by examiners to review the underlying value of the collateral associated with these high-risk loans. Because of the high-risk nature of commercial real estate loans and the inconsistencies in examiner documentation of their review of related appraisals, DSC should consider assessing the adequacy and documentation of appraisal review as part of its office review program. (Note: In a March 29, 1999 DSC memorandum, the DSC regional offices are charged with performing reviews of the operations of the field offices in a risk-focused approach.)
DSC regional management and field office supervisors alike have expressed concern about the level of expertise examiners have in assessing real estate appraisals. Regional management noted that the Real Estate Appraisal School had been suspended for several years. They were particularly concerned about the new examiners who may not possess skills to adequately review appraisals. According to regional and field office management, many new examiners have not had the benefit of appraisal school training. Information contained in the Training Server System as of April 30, 2002 shows that 336 active commissioned DSC field examiners have not attended either the Real Estate Appraisal School that was run several years ago by DSC, or the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s (FFIEC’s) Real Estate Appraisal program. (Note: The FFIEC’s Real Estate Appraisal Review School provides examiners with the underlying knowledge and skills required to review a commercial real estate appraisal to determine compliance with appraisal regulations and standards as provided by the USPAP.) This represents approximately 23 percent of the commissioned examiners in the field. We spoke with one field office supervisor who told us that the field office had conducted its own real estate appraisal training because DSC was not offering the class.
We recommend that the Director, DSC:
ANALYSIS OF CASH FLOW
Examiners generally performed cash flow analysis during bank examinations. However, in a few instances there was no evidence of this analysis, and in most cases the debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) was not computed. The DSCR is a quick method for determining the number of times loan principal and interest payments are covered by the borrower’s net after tax income, and clearly shows the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. Additionally, the cash flow analysis was sometimes calculated using outdated financial information, and when this occurred, a technical exception was not usually noted in the examination workpapers.
The general guidance provided to examiners in the Examination Documentation (ED) Module entitled Loan Portfolio Management and Review: General, directs examiners to review appropriate financial ratios, trends, cash flow history, and projections to determine the repayment capacity of the borrower. (Note: Generally, the DSC Manual describes examination objectives but does not provide the examiners with specific steps to use in accomplishing the objectives, whereas Examination Documentation Modules list specific procedures to be performed to accomplish examination objectives. To ensure consistent application of the risk-focused examination process nationwide, the Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection developed the Examination Documentation modules to provide examiners with a tool to focus on risk management and to establish an appropriate examination scope. The Examination Documentation modules incorporate questions and points of consideration into examination procedures to specifically address a bank’s risk management strategies for each of its major business activities. In particular, the modules are segregated into three categories: Primary Modules, Supplemental Modules, and Loan and Other References. In addition, the format of the primary and supplemental modules is divided into three distinct sections of analysis: Core Analysis, Expanded Analysis, and Impact Analysis. The extent to which an examiner works through each of these three levels of analysis depends upon the conclusions reached regarding the presence of significant concerns or deficiencies. As stipulated in the Regional Directors Memorandum entitled Guidelines for Examination Workpapers and Discretionary Use of Examination Documentation Modules, dated September 25, 2001, “The use of the ED modules is now discretionary…Although their use is now discretionary, the ED modules are excellent training and reference tools, which provide consistency and standardized procedures.”) If examiners do not consistently compute the DSCR, use outdated financial information, or fail to document technical exceptions, they may underestimate the bank’s risk of loss in the loan portfolio.
Examiners’ Review of Cash Flow and DSCR
In 230 out of 248 cases, the examiners performed the cash flow analysis during bank examinations, but for 18 of the loans we reviewed, there was no evidence on the loan line sheets that a cash flow analysis had been performed. We also noted that in 170 instances the DSCR was not computed. According to DSC management, cash flow is the single most important element in assessing the borrower’s ability to repay debt. DSC training classes provide guidance to examiners on the importance of computing the cash flow analysis and DSCR, as well as detailed instructions on their computation.
We reviewed the DSC Manual of Examination Policies, Section 3.1, Loans, for guidance on performing a cash flow analysis and calculating the DSCR. The DSC Manual provided guidance to examiners on the importance of calculating a cash flow analysis or debt service coverage ratio during the loan review process. DSC’s Loan Analysis School, which is required for all examiners, also provides extensive training on cash flow analysis and calculation of the debt service coverage ratio. We also reviewed the DSC Regional Directors Memorandum System to determine whether any guidance had been provided to instruct examiners to perform a cash flow analysis or DSCR during the loan review process. We did not identify any memoranda to this effect.
The DSC ED Module entitled Loan Portfolio Management and Review: General, dated August 2000, states that examiners must determine whether the bank’s financial analysis of borrowers is adequate in relation to the size and complexity of the debt. The Loan Module also states that the examiner must review appropriate financial ratios, trends, cash flow history, and projections sufficient to determine the financing needs and repayment capacity of the borrower.
According to DSC’s Examination Documentation Module entitled Commercial/Industrial Real Estate Loan Review Module, dated November 1997, examiners should evaluate the cash flow potential of the underlying collateral to repay the loan within a reasonable amortization period. Examiners should also evaluate the borrower’s willingness and ability to repay the loan from other resources when determining the credit quality of the loan.
We noted that some loan line sheets contained very detailed analysis of cash flow while others contained very scant information. We used very basic criteria in that we gave the examiner credit for performing a cash flow analysis if we saw any discussion at all on the loan line sheets indicating a cash flow analysis was performed. Our review was limited to the examiner’s loan line sheets and supporting documentation.
According to one Regional Director (RD), in most cases the cash flow should be computed but in some situations it is not necessary and that would depend on the individual asset. For example, some tenants have long-term leases and nothing would change in 10 years regarding the income provided by the leases. The RD also stated that an examiner could encounter an asset that is rented to a "4 star" company and an updated cash flow may not be needed.
During our review we also noted that most of the line cards or other examination workpapers showed that examiners did not calculate the DSCR during their analysis of loans. Specifically, in 170 out of the 248 cases (69 percent) the examiner’s line cards did not show the DSCR. We discussed our observations regarding the DSCR computations with a DSC Regional Director, who stated that computation of the DSCR is at the discretion of the examiner. While we agree that it may not be necessary to calculate the DSCR on every loan, prudent business practices dictate that in cases where repayment of the loan is dependent upon the income generated from the property, a DSCR should be calculated.
Age of Financial Statements
Based on the data included in the examination loan line sheets and supporting documentation, we noted that in 63 instances out of the 248 loans reviewed (25 percent) banks did not obtain updated financial information on a timely basis. Examiners often performed the cash flow analysis using outdated financial information. We also noted there are no directives, procedures, regulations, or standards that require banks to obtain current financial information at specified intervals. While we recognize that the banks are solely responsible for obtaining updated financial statements from borrowers, examiners’ use of outdated financial statements in their assessment of cash flow may produce conclusions that are misleading. It is important that examiners obtain current financial statements so that they can accurately assess the borrower’s ability to repay the debt or inform management of the problem in their Report of Examination.
We reviewed the DSC Manual to determine if it included a discussion on how often banks should be expected to obtain current financial statements from borrowers, and to determine the age at which financial statements are generally considered outdated. We found that the DSC Manual did not address these issues. However, the FRB Manual states that banks should obtain at least annual financial statements from borrowers. In our opinion, financial statements should be updated at least annually, particularly on income producing properties.
In 63 loans (25 percent), we found that bankers had not obtained current financial statements from borrowers, and consequently examiners did not have updated financial information on which to base their analysis during the safety and soundness examinations. While financial institutions bear sole responsibility for obtaining current financial information on borrowers, examiners should take steps to encourage banks to obtain updated financial information on a timely basis by including these observations in the Report of Examination.
In 27 cases out of the 63 loans (43 percent) mentioned above, examiners used outdated financial information to perform the cash flow analysis. Further analysis of these 27 loans showed that in 15 cases, the examiner passed the loan based partly on the borrower’s strong financial condition, but the examiner’s decision was based on information derived from outdated financial information. Assessing loans using outdated financial statements does not provide assurance that the loan was adequately classified. In the remaining 36 of 63 cases, the examiners passed the loan based on reasons other than the borrower’s financial condition, such as LTV ratio, strong guarantor, and large deposits at the bank.
Also, performing cash flow analysis using outdated financial information does not provide reasonable assurance of the borrower’s current ability to repay the debt. The borrower’s financial condition could have significantly deteriorated since the last financial reporting period, and the examiner would not necessarily be aware of changes that may have occurred in the borrower’s financial position. Thus, financial risk to the institution may go undetected. As a result, the bank’s exposure to loss could increase and its ability to implement timely corrective actions on individual loans to reduce risk could decrease.
Our analysis showed that examiners did not always note a technical exception on the loan line sheets when the borrower’s financial statements were outdated. Although the DSC Manual instructs examiners to note outdated financial statements as an exception, the policy does not identify the age at which financial statements are considered outdated. By not specifying an age, some examiners may overlook the outdated financial statements and may not record the age of financial statements as a technical exception on the loan line sheets. If technical exceptions are not consistently listed on the loan line sheets, the examination team may not see the true extent of the problem and may miss the opportunity to comment on the bank’s credit administration weaknesses in the Report of Examination.
The DSC Manual states that "Deficiencies in documentation of loans should be brought to the attention of management for remedial action. Failure of management to effect corrections may lead to the development of greater credit risk in the future. Moreover, the presence of an excessive number of technical exceptions is a reflection on management’s quality and ability. Inclusion of the schedule ‘Assets with Credit Data or Collateral Documentation Exceptions’ and various comments in the Report of Examination is appropriate in certain circumstances." We discussed the issue of outdated financial statements with DSC regional management, and management confirmed that financial statements over 12 months are considered outdated.
As noted previously, 63 of the 248 loans in a sample did not have current financial statements. Further review of these 63 loans showed that in 28 out of the 63 cases (44 percent), the examiners noted technical exceptions on the loan lines sheets for financial statements that were over 12 months old. However, examiners did not note a technical exception on the loan line sheet for the remaining 35 loans (56 percent). We reviewed the Report of Examinations, Supplemental Sections, for these 35 loans and found that the examiners did not identify that the bank failed to obtain current financial statements from borrowers. To determine the age of the financial statements for the loans where a technical exception was not noted, we prepared an aging schedule. We found that the financial statements ranged in age from 13 to 40 months, with 11 exceeding 19 months in age.
We recommend that the Director, DSC:
REVIEW OF LOAN POLICIES
In each of the 35 cases we reviewed, the Report of Examination or the examination workpapers contained indications that the examiners had reviewed the institutions’ loan policies. However, the report statements and workpapers we reviewed were documented to varying degrees, and this inconsistency of documentation made it difficult for us to judge the quality and extent of examiner review of loan policies. Nevertheless, our own review showed that the banks’ lending policies generally addressed the factors required by the DSC Manual.
FDIC Rules and Regulations implementing the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies require institutions to adopt and maintain written lending policies that establish appropriate limits and standards for all extensions of credit that are secured by liens on or interests in real estate, or made for the purpose of financing the construction of a building or other improvements. Each institution’s policies must be comprehensive, consistent with safe and sound lending practices, and must ensure that the institution operates within limits and according to standards that are reviewed and approved, at least annually, by the board of directors.
The DSC Manual, Section 3.1 – Loans, identifies broad areas that should be addressed in an examination of the institution's lending policies. These areas include real estate lending policies, LTV limits, loan review and credit grading systems, and appraisal policies.
We reviewed 35 Reports of Examination and their corresponding examination workpapers to determine the extent of the examiner’s review and assessment of bank loan policies. We found that in each case the Report of Examination or the examination workpapers contained indications that the examiners had reviewed the institution’s loan policies. In 27 of the 35 cases, examiners made comments in the Reports of Examination regarding the quality of the bank’s loan policies.In the remaining eight cases where the Reports of Examination did not contain examiner comments regarding the quality of loan policies, we found indications elsewhere in the working papers that showed that the examiners had reviewed loan policies. Evidence of examiner review in the workpapers included excerpts from bank loan policies, examiner notations on Examination Documentation Modules, and notations on other examination workpapers. However, the documentation was not always sufficient to evaluate the quality of the review. As a result, the inconsistency of documentation prevented us from reaching an overall conclusion on the quality of review.
Our own review showed that the banks’ lending policies addressed specific factors that were prescribed within the DSC Manual. In particular, we reviewed DSC examination workpapers for the 35 banks in our sample and found that 28 contained copies of the loan policies. We compared these loan policies to the factors that the DSC Manual states should be included in bank lending policies. Specifically, we selected 18 factors from the DSC Manual that we deemed important to the evaluation of commercial real estate. These factors include standard lending policies; real estate lending limits, including LTV limits; credit grading systems; and appraisal policies. We found that the banks’ policies generally addressed the 18 factors selected from DSC policies.
Absent any effect caused by the lack of documentation, we are not making recommendations related to this matter.
CORPORATION COMMENTS AND OIG EVALUATION
On December 5, 2002, the DSC Director provided a written response to the draft report. The response and its attachment are presented in Appendix III to this report. Prior to the receipt of DSC’s written response, DSC provided a draft of its written response on November 18, 2002. Based on the draft response, we provided written clarification to DSC on certain aspects of our audit report. We requested DSC to reconsider the draft report and its responses to our recommendations, especially in light of the principles of the risk-focused examination process. In the December 5th response, DSC management concurred with one of the six recommendations. DSC management did not concur with five recommendations, did not suggest acceptable alternative actions, and did not provide information that would convince us to revise any of the five recommendations.
Prior to responding to the report’s six recommendations, DSC had some general comments about the report’s findings and recommendations. These comments are bulleted below, followed by the OIG’s response to those comments, in italics.
DSC Responses to OIG Recommendations
The draft report contained eight recommendations, but after discussions with DSC management, we deleted two of our recommendations that were addressed by another recommendation. As a result, the final report contains six recommendations. DSC concurred with one of the six recommendations. That one recommendation is resolved; however it will remain undispositioned and open until we have determined that agreed-to corrective action has been completed and is effective. The five recommendations that DSC did not concur with are considered unresolved, undispositioned, and open. A summary of each recommendation and DSC’s comments follow, along with the OIG’s evaluation of the response.
Recommendation 1: Remind examiners to verify institution compliance with Part 365 by using the lesser of the acquisition cost or the appraised value when computing the LTV ratio.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. Examiners are aware that to accurately calculate loan-to-value (LTV) ratios under Part 365, banks should use the lower of acquisition cost or appraised value and DSC does not believe that examiners need to be reminded to verify institutions’ compliance with the Part 365 LTV guidelines. According to DSC, it is most common that acquisition cost and appraised value at the time of purchase are the same and additional instruction to examiners to document both values on the line sheet is not considered necessary. DSC stated that this fact most likely accounts for the finding in our report that in 60 of the 100 line sheets reviewed, the acquisition cost was not noted. If that is the case, DSC states the examiner would not be expected to document the property’s acquisition cost on the line sheet, unless it had relevance to the evaluation of the credit, because the LTV at acquisition would have been reviewed at the prior examination. DSC further states that the Part 365 LTVs for commercial real estate are guidelines, and the bank’s failure to follow the guidelines would only be commented on within the report of examination if excessive instances of noncompliance were identified.
DSC also commented on our report noting instances where the examiners used the appraised value, not the acquisition price, to determine the LTV. According to DSC, one reason for this occurrence is that in those instances that involved construction loans, it is possible that the acquisition cost did not reflect improvements subsequent to acquisition. Subsequent improvement costs may have impacted the current value of the property.
Recommendation 2: Clarify the division’s expectations for examiners regarding the evaluation of appraisals of commercial real estate, including guidance on when it would be appropriate to update appraisals with new financial information.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. DSC believes that adequate guidance regarding the evaluation of appraisals exists. DSC states that besides the Manual of Examination Policies, Part 323, and a Statement of Policy (Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines), examiners attend an appraisal school and are given workbooks and reference guides on how to evaluate appraisals.
DSC agrees that some appraisals should be adjusted to reflect new information, but only when there is known deterioration of the primary repayment source. According to DSC, because of the close interrelationship between the primary repayment source and the secondary repayment source (assumed to be collateral), deterioration of the primary repayment source should serve as the trigger to adjust subject appraisals. Otherwise, in DSC’s view, it would not be beneficial from a cost or risk perspective to evaluate collateral for loss when no signs of increased risk have emerged.
Recommendation 3: Request DSC regional offices, as part of their current cycle of field office reviews, to specifically address whether the extent of examiners’ review of appraisals is sufficient for high-risk CRE loans.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. DSC management states that the field office review programs already address the sufficiency of examiners’ review of appraisals as part of the review process.
Recommendation 4: Provide additional training for examiners, as needed, on the adequate evaluation of appraisals.
DSC concurs with this recommendation. The real estate appraisal training was resumed in 2001. All commissioned examiners will be scheduled for this training. This recommendation is resolved. It will remain undispositioned and open until we have determined that agreed-to corrective action has been completed and is effective.
Recommendation 5: Provide guidance reminding examiners of the importance of performing cash flow analysis and computation of the DSCR for income-producing loans based on the risk level of the asset.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. DSC states that the audit found that in almost all cases the examiners performed the cash flow analysis. However, in most cases the debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) was not indicated on the line sheet. According to DSC, the main concern is whether or not the borrower’s cash flow covers the debt service, rather than manually calculating and transcribing the ratio on the line sheets. The emphasis is on identifying risk and supporting the classifications in those instances where loans are criticized or deteriorating. Further, DSC states that its Manual of Examination Policies does, in several areas, address the importance of cash flow analysis. Specifically, DSC cites section 3.1 of the Manual as addressing the importance of cash flow analysis under sections such as the various loan types, underwriting, loan analysis, debt repayment, credit file information and analysis, problem indicators, and internal loan portfolio review.
Additionally, we agree that the DSC Manual addresses the importance of cash flow analysis and have revised the report to acknowledge this fact.
Recommendation 6: Reinforce to examiners the need to document technical exceptions (TEs) on the loan line sheets when financial statements are outdated or not available, and to retain a record of TEs provided to bank management.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. DSC states that our report did not find that many instances of stale financial statements during our review relative to the sample size. DSC does not want to document all TEs in the Report of Examination, as some TEs are not significant in nature. DSC believes that current practices and procedures are adequate to address the documentation of TEs.
Because five recommendations in this report are unresolved, undispositioned, and open, we have requested DSC to reconsider its response to our report and provide us additional comments.
OBJECTIVES, SCOPE, AND METHODOLOGY
The objectives of this audit were to determine whether: (1) the examiners fully assessed appraised value, cash flow, and lending policies in their examination of commercial real estate (CRE) loans and (2) the examiners’ strategies for assessing a significant level of CRE loan growth were sufficient for identifying increased risk. While our audit addressed both objectives, the subject matter and results were distinct enough that we have prepared separate reports to address each objective. This audit report addresses our observations with regard to objective (1) above and covers our assessment of examiner analysis of loan policy, cash flow, and appraisals. The audit focused on two DSC regional offices, San Francisco and Dallas, and four field offices within these regions.
To accomplish our objective we:
We judgmentally selected and reviewed the examinations performed at 35 banks in the San Francisco and Dallas regions. The banks selected for review were located in Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Denver – all metropolitan areas that the FDIC had identified as potentially overbuilt in the commercial real estate sector. Our fieldwork entailed reviewing pre-planning memoranda, examination reports, and examination workpapers. We also selected 248 commercial real estate loan line sheets as a basis to assess the examiners’ review of appraisals, cash flow, and loan policies.
The limited nature of the audit objective did not require reviewing the Government Performance and Results Act, testing for fraud or illegal acts, or determining the reliability of computer-processed data obtained from the FDIC’s computerized systems. Our assessment of internal management control was limited to a review of DSC’s applicable policies and procedures as presented in the DSC Manual, Regional Directors Memoranda, and Examination Documentation Modules.
We performed fieldwork in Washington, D.C., the DSC San Francisco and Dallas regional offices, and four field offices (Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, and Denver) located in the San Francisco and Dallas regions.
We focused our review on examinations that had been performed during the period of September 1999 through April 2001. The audit was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. The audit fieldwork was conducted from April 2001 through July 2002.
We noted several instances where the examiners-in-charge (EICs) prepared an in-depth summary of the institution’s loan policies listing salient points of interest for the examination team to use in reviewing loans. Preparation of the loan policies in summary is a good method for distributing information to the examination team and a valuable practice for other EICs to follow.
Additionally, the Dallas Regional Office has established a Regional Banker Outreach Program with periodic meetings between DSC management and area bank management teams. This forum allows the FDIC to meet with the bankers in an informal setting that encourages bankers to freely express their opinions and concerns and to discuss current and emerging issues. The Regional Banker Outreach Program is a practice that encourages bankers within the region to stay informed regarding changes in the financial sector and local economy that may affect local area bankers and the FDIC.
December 5, 2002
TO: Stephen M. Beard, Deputy Assistant Inspector General, Office of the Inspector General
FROM: Michael J. Zamorski [Electronically produced version; original signed by Michael J. Zamorski], Director, Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection
CONCUR: John F. Bovenzi [Electronically produced version; original signed John Bovenzi], Deputy to the Chairman and Chief Operating Officer
SUBJECT: Draft Report Entitled "Audit of Examiner Assessment of Commercial Real Estate Loans" (Assignment No. 2001-809)
The Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection (DSC) has reviewed the above-noted draft audit report. DSC is committed to ensuring that examiners carefully and accurately assess loan quality in FDIC-supervised financial institutions. Although we share the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) desire to identify and correct potentially harmful trends in commercial real estate lending at early stages, we believe that existing examination practices, guidance, and procedures adequately address these issues.
The stated objective of this audit was to determine whether examiners fully assess appraised value, cash flow, and lending polices in their examination of commercial real estate loans. However, DSC believes that the report inappropriately contains conclusions relative to the adequacy of the examination loan review process solely based on perceived documentation deficiencies in examination workpapers, specifically loan line sheets. Further, the report does not link these perceived documentation deficiencies to any error in judgement regarding the examiners’ assessment of the banks’ loan portfolios. DSC firmly believes that its examination staff, using existing examination guidance and procedures, conducts appropriately risk-focused and accurate assessments of commercial real estate portfolios in FDIC-supervised institutions.
Under the heading of "Results of the Audit," the report states: "Examiners could have better assessed [emphasis added] appraised value and cash flow in the examinations we reviewed." This statement seems to imply that, if examiners had better assessed appraised value and cash flow, different examination findings may have been reached. However, neither the audit report nor the current condition of the institutions sampled provides any indication that our examiners’ conclusions were inaccurate. Again, the OIG’s only basis for stating that examiners could have better assessed loan quality is that examiners did not consistently document within their workpapers certain details of their loan review. DSC feels it is inappropriate to draw the conclusions that examiners do not conduct an adequate assessment of cash flow or an appropriate review of appraisals simply because a particular cash flow ratio was not documented or all three appraisal methodologies were not noted on the loan line sheet.
Examiners have been provided appropriate guidance through memoranda and our examination documentation (ED) modules, among other resources, to clarify DSC’s position that sufficient documentation should be maintained to provide a clear trail of decisions and supporting logic within the given area of review. In fact, the auditors were able to review preplanning memoranda, which documented the examiners’ processes and conclusions prior to the start of the examination; completed ED modules; line sheets; reports of examination; copies of bank loan policies, asset appraisals, and internal audit reports; and various other documentation obtained by our examiners and maintained as a part of our examination workpapers. After reviewing all of this information, the auditors’ criticisms focus on undocumented acquisition prices, debt service coverage ratios, and technical exceptions relating to stale financial statements. Accordingly, and while giving due consideration to the importance of the auditors’ findings, DSC believes that the examiners’ conclusions were adequately supported.
Prior to any examination, examiners analyze available offsite reports and take local economic information into consideration. In addition, pre-examination planning meetings are a critical element in approaching every examination. The examiners consult with bank management to gain their perspective on bank-specific conditions and concerns. Topics discussed during these meetings often include the bank’s processes to monitor concentrations, its methodology for determining the allowance for loan and lease losses (ALLL), steps taken to address prior examination recommendations, and emerging issues or risks. During the examination, the examiners benefit greatly from loan discussions with the loan officers and senior management who generally have a strong understanding of their lending area and the financial condition of their loan customers. Although examiners may not always document all of the information gathered through such discussions on their line sheets, the onsite presence of examiners and the procedures they utilize during an examination provide an invaluable and accurate risk assessment of the quality of loans held by state nonmember institutions.
The FDIC, along with the other regulators, employs a risk-focused examination program. This program is designed to focus examination resources on those areas that pose the greatest risk to an insured institution. Examiners are encouraged to limit, or in some cases, eliminate traditional examination procedures in low-risk, well-managed areas of the institution. The risk-focused approach allows for better utilization of our examiners’ time and serves to reduce the burden on our supervised institutions. In accordance with the risk-focused approach, DSC has instructed the examination workforce that documentation on a loan line sheet should fully support the conclusion to pass or classify the credit. Once sufficient information is obtained to make that determination, further documentation on the line sheet is not required.
Although the institutions in the sample do indeed have concentrations in commercial real estate loans, and some of those institutions experienced significant growth, these factors alone do not result in their designation as "high-risk" institutions. For example, an institution may have strong underwriting processes in place and a seasoned management team experienced in the local commercial real estate market. In addition, the significant growth that many of these institutions experienced was a planned part of their denovo operation or the result of mergers with other well-run state non-member institutions. Again, we must emphasize that examiner judgment is used to assess the risk within the whole institution as well as particular areas of operation. Examiners then make decisions, guided by DSC policies and procedures, as to the level of depth of their review, as well as to the level of documentation that is needed. DSC and its examination staff are well aware that commercial real estate loans can pose higher levels of risk to an institution, particularly when concentrations in these credits exist. Due to this higher risk, additional guidance is available and is followed during the review of commercial real estate loans. Although we believe that the auditors were already provided with this additional guidance, we have attached the DSC memo entitled, Loan Review, and three of the ED modules related to commercial loans to this memorandum and request that they be made a part of our official response to the audit report.
Although the auditors’ findings and recommendations are not considered to be particularly negative, the report’s narrative is considered inappropriate as it appears to criticize the basic, risk-focused approaches of the examination process. In fact, the sample’s composition and the OIG’s findings indicate to DSC that the examiners employed appropriate risk-focused examination procedures to reach and support sound conclusions. The institutions sampled for this audit numbered 35. Twenty-four of the institutions had total assets of less than $250 million. Only 2 of the 35 institutions had asset quality component ratings of "3," and only 1 had an asset quality component and composite rating of "3." Excluding those 3 institutions and the 8 denovo institutions in the sample, the remaining 24 institutions had asset quality, management, and composite ratings of "1" or "2," on average, for the prior 9 years. In addition, of the 31 institutions in the sample that have had at least one examination subsequent to the examination reviewed by the auditors, 28 continue to be rated a composite "1" or "2." While past performance is not a guarantee of future performance, it is certainly an important factor that, when combined with the size of the institution and the capabilities of the institutions’ management, will affect the risk-scoping process and, ultimately, the level of documentation required for examination workpapers.
As more fully discussed below in referencing each of the report’s recommendations, DSC believes that outstanding guidance and current examination practices for the review of real estate loans are appropriate for identifying risks within the commercial real estate portfolios of FDIC-supervised institutions. In addition, much of the guidance and examination practices have been developed on an interagency basis. For example, the Federal Reserve also uses the Examination Documentation Modules and the loan review system, Automated Loan Examination Review Tool (ALERT). Therefore, the audit’s recommendations have interagency implications.
We concur with only one of the six recommendations included within the report and note our planned action to address that recommendation. We do not concur with the remainder of the recommendations and do not intend to take any action with respect to them.
The following six recommendations have been proposed by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the draft report:
(1) Remind examiners to verify institution compliance with Part 365 by using the lesser of the acquisition cost or the appraised value when computing the LTV ratio.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. Examiners are aware that to accurately calculate loan-to-value (LTV) ratios under Part 365, banks should use the lower of acquisition cost or appraised value and we do not believe that examiners need to be reminded to verify institutions’ compliance with the Part 365 LTV guidelines. The audit report notes that in the majority of the line sheets sampled, the examiners did not identify the acquisition cost but did calculate a LTV ratio. Since it is most common that acquisition cost and appraised value at the time of purchase are the same, additional instruction to examiners to document both values on the line sheet is not considered necessary. This fact most likely accounts for the findings in the OIG’s report that in 60 of the 100 line sheets reviewed the acquisition cost was not noted. It is also possible that the loans sampled by the OIG had been reviewed at a prior examination. If that is the case, then the examiner would not be expected to document the property’s acquisition cost on the line sheet, unless it had relevance to the evaluation of the credit, because the LTV at acquisition would have been reviewed at the prior examination. The auditors found only 8 instances out of 40 where using the acquisition cost instead of the appraised value would result in the loans exceeding the Part 365 LTV guidelines. It is important to note that the Part 365 LTVs for commercial real estate are, in fact, guidelines and a bank’s failure to follow the guidelines would only be commented on within the report of examination if excessive instances of noncompliance were identified.
The OIG’s report also notes 31 instances out of 40 where the examiners used the appraised value not the acquisition price to determine the LTV. However, if those instances involved construction loans, it is entirely possible that the acquisition cost did not reflect improvements that the appraisals may have considered. The age of the property and improvements subsequent to acquisition (e.g., zoning approvals obtained, building permits, site preparation, renovations, etc.) may have a material impact on the current value of the property. Therefore, the acquisition cost may not always be the appropriate value to use when calculating the LTV for a line sheet after the loan has been originated. Finally, it should not be assumed that the examiner did not review the bank’s adherence to the Part 365 LTV guidelines at the loan’s origination because the LTV calculated on a line sheet used the appraised value.
(2) Clarify the division’s expectations for examiners regarding the evaluation of appraisals of commercial real estate, including guidance on when it would be appropriate to update appraisals with new financial information.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. The report notes that examiners are not consistently updating old appraisals with new financial information or documenting the results of an appraisal review. As support for the conclusion that examiners are not documenting the appraisal review, the OIG states that examiners did not list all three approaches to value on line cards in 155 of 260 instances. As a result of these observations, the OIG recommends that DSC clarify its expectations regarding the adequate evaluation of appraisals, including when to update appraisals with new financial information. DSC believes that further guidance regarding the evaluation of appraisals is not necessary. Besides the Manual of Examination Policies, Part 323, and a Statement of Policy (Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines), examiners attend an appraisal school and are given workbooks and reference guides on how to evaluate appraisals. It seems inappropriate to conclude that examiners need additional guidance on how to evaluate appraisals because not all three approaches to value were listed on a line card, or old appraisals were not updated with new information.
First, all three approaches to value are normally evaluated, but not necessarily listed on the line card. Generally, only the final value is noted on the line card; however, examiners have to analyze each approach to value to determine the appropriateness of the final value. Typically, only one of the three values is most pertinent toward determining a final value, and examiners need to ensure that the appraiser uses the most pertinent approach to reconcile to a final value. For example, when reviewing a commercial real estate appraisal, examiners know that the income approach to value is the most pertinent indicator of value, and we would expect the appraiser to reconcile to the final value by most heavily considering the income approach. If the appraiser departs from that methodology, examiners would normally comment on the line sheet as to why another approach to value was more heavily weighted in the final reconciliation of value.
It is not appropriate to suggest that because the three approaches to value were not on a line card that examiners did not consider appraiser methodology. While not always documented in the interest of time, examiners have several tools with which to evaluate an appraiser’s methodology. Besides the appraisal itself, examiners use bank-generated appraisal reviews, loan narratives, and previous appraisals on the same property to evaluate an appraiser’s methodology. Additionally, examiners frequently rely on discussions with management or an in-house appraiser, and more rarely, with the appraiser or other bank-approved appraisers.
Second, the OIG’s assertion that examiners should be provided guidance on when to update appraisals with new financial information is unrealistic and, if implemented, would burden the examination process, be cost inefficient, and result in a nominal benefit, if any. We concur that some appraisals should be adjusted to reflect new information, but only when there is known deterioration of the primary repayment source. Because of the close interrelationship between the primary repayment source and the secondary repayment source (assumed to be collateral), deterioration of the primary repayment source should serve as the trigger to adjust subject appraisals. Otherwise, it would not be beneficial from a cost or risk perspective to evaluate collateral for loss when no signs of increased risk have emerged. The ED module for Commercial/Industrial Real Estate Loan Review (attached) provides the following guidance: "If material deviations from facts and assumptions are determined, adjust the estimated value of the property, if reasonably possible and supportable, for the purpose of the credit analysis. (Note: Adjustments to collateral value made for credit analysis purposes should not be based on worst case scenarios that are unlikely to occur.)"
When evaluating commercial real estate loans, those circumstances that pose increased risk to the primary repayment source (e.g., high vacancy rates, lowered rents or concessions, deferred maintenance, etc.) would also negatively and possibly materially affect the appraised value. However, updating an appraisal when little evidence of increased risk is evident would not be in keeping with the risk-focused examination process. For example, since commercial real estate appraisals are normally based on a "stabilized" occupancy, it would not be appropriate to adjust an appraised value simply due to a change in current occupancy rates. Examiners would typically not want to adjust these appraised values unless increased risk is present and it is probable that the property cannot reach the stabilized occupancy.
As an aside, and rather than individually adjusting appraisals as the primary means to identify loss, examiner discretion may dictate that a separate allocation to the ALLL be made due to general economic conditions. For example, increased repayment risk may not have surfaced in specific commercial real estate properties, yet the trend in general economic conditions is adverse relative to commercial real estate properties (i.e., cost of capital and interest rates increasing, early signs of rent reductions, vacancy rates creeping upward, etc.). To meet current risk-scoping requirements, this method is far less time-consuming and is available as a tool to analyze the appropriateness of the ALLL per current guidance.
(3) Request DSC regional offices, as part of their current cycle of field office reviews, to specifically address whether the extent of examiners’ review of appraisals is sufficient for high-risk CRE loans.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. Our field office review programs already address this as a part of the review process. In addition, and as discussed in our response to recommendation two, the documentation of an examiner’s review of an appraisal is expected to be commensurate with the level of concern the examiner has with the appraisal, the loan’s performance, its underwriting, the economy, etc.
(4) Provide additional training for examiners, as needed, on the adequate evaluation of appraisals.
DSC concurs with this recommendation. While DSC does not believe that there is currently insufficient examiner expertise in the field to conduct adequate evaluations of appraisals in FDIC-supervised institutions, DSC concurs that formal appraisal training should be provided to all examiners. FDIC examiners attended real estate appraisal training through 1997; this training was provided to all examiners who were commissioned at that time. Beginning in 1998, this training was suspended, partially due to the training and additional workloads brought upon by Year 2000 requirements. Real estate appraisal training was resumed when the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council ("FFIEC") established a real estate appraisal training program in 2001. The FDIC sent 40 people in 2001, scheduled 101 in 2002, and 86 are currently scheduled for 2003. Going forward, all examiners who receive their commission will be scheduled for this training.
It should be noted that, while some newer examiners have not yet received formal real estate appraisal training, considerable on-the-job training occurs during the examination process. When an examiner is responsible for reviewing a loan that contains a complex appraisal with which they are unfamiliar, more seasoned examiners are available to provide guidance and answer questions.
(5) Provide guidance reminding examiners of the importance of performing cash flow analysis and computation of the DSCR for income producing loans based on the risk level of the asset.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. The audit found in 242 out of 260 cases (or 93 percent) that the examiners performed the cash flow analysis. Accordingly, we believe that examiners do not require additional guidance to remind them of the importance of analyzing cash flow in income producing properties.
However, in 181 out of the 260 cases the debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) was not indicated on the line sheet. It appears, therefore, that the auditors’ conclusion that cash flow analysis should be improved is solely based on the lack of a documented DSCR and not on the absence of cash flow information. A requirement for examiners to manually calculate and transcribe the DSCR and cash flow analysis for every loan serves little purpose, other than to document the workpapers for audit purposes. The main concern is whether or not the borrower’s cash flow covers the debt service, rather than manually calculating and transcribing the ratio on the line sheets. The emphasis is on identifying risk and supporting the classifications in those instances where loans are criticized or deteriorating. If the cash flow statement/analysis clearly shows that the property covers its debt service requirements, then the documentation of a DSCR on the line sheet is considered to be superfluous.
Further, the DSC Manual of Examination Policies does, in several areas, address the importance of cash flow analysis. Specifically, Section 3.1 of the Manual addresses the importance of cash flow analysis under sections such as the various loan types, underwriting, loan analysis, debt repayment, credit file information and analysis, problem indicators, and internal loan portfolio review. Also, as the report notes, the ED modules specifically mention in several places the importance and requirement of cash flow analysis.
(6) Reinforce to examiners the need to document technical exceptions (TEs) on the loan line sheets when financial statements are outdated or not available, and to retain a record of TEs provided to bank management.
DSC does not concur with this recommendation. The OIG’s report includes the statement "…performing cash flow analysis using outdated financial information does not provide reasonable assurance of the borrower’s current ability to repay the debt." Although examiners would prefer to rely on current information, industry practice often dictates otherwise, mostly because of the cost versus benefit associated with obtaining current information. Generally, all bankers send notices to borrowers to update old financial information; however, to appropriately follow up on all these requests would require a level of administration that most banks can not bear. As a result, some financial statements arrive late, if at all, and bankers and examiners have to resort to alternative means to arrive at appropriate risk ratings. DSC consistently encourages bankers to obtain current financial information and to analyze the cash flow, performance, and trends provided by this financial information.
Technical exceptions (TEs) do not only cover financial information but also cover a wide range of information and documentation. Generally, TEs are documented in one of several places: line sheets, separate TE sheet given to management, combined TE sheet(s) in the examination workpapers, or, if TEs are excessive, a TE page is included with the examination report. When significant weaknesses are noted in this area, DSC also criticizes this in the examination report.
Because of the many variables involved in a particular lending relationship, each credit line must be reviewed separately. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to develop concise definitions for when a financial statement is outdated. As stated in the OIG’s report, financial statements are generally considered stale after 12 months, but examiners have the discretion on when to cite these as TEs due to a variety of factors. Factors such as rent rolls, tenant stability and strength, actual age of financial statements, loan covenants, tax filing deadlines, time delays from CPA reviewed/prepared financial statements, etc., are all considered when an examiner determines whether or not to cite "stale financial statements" as a TE. The OIG’s report notes that of 260 loans sampled, only 74 of the financial statements used by examiners to review the loans exceeded 12 months in age and only 16 of those exceeded 19 months in age. The report also notes that of those 74 cases, TEs for stale financial statements were noted in 28 instances. DSC believes that current practices and procedures are adequate to address the documentation of TEs.
As previously mentioned, bankers are aware of the need for updated financial information. However, bankers frequently have difficulty obtaining information after the loan is made and it is performing as agreed. Notwithstanding, bankers still pursue updated financial information and DSC strongly encourages the same at every examination. Appendix A of Part 365, under the subtitle Loan Administration, states that banks should "establish loan administration procedures for its real estate portfolio that address documentation, including ‘type and frequency’ of financial statements." In addition, examiners review the loan policies to ensure that credit file documentation standards are appropriate for the needs of the bank. Most banks now include such language in loan covenants (though non-submission is not generally considered a default), and banks maintain tickler systems for follow-up procedures to maintain current financial information and other current documentation.
Division of Supervision
CLASSIFICATION NUMBER: 6600
MEMORANDUM TO: Regional Directors
FROM: Michael J. Zamorski, Acting Director
SUBJECT: Loan Review
1. Purpose: Recent indicators suggest the potential for an economic downturn. This, coupled with industry loan growth, indicates a need to re-emphasize to examiners the importance of the loan review function and the loan sampling process. This memorandum encompasses an initiative that originated from the DOS Process Redesign Project.
2. Background: The FDIC, in conjunction with the Federal Reserve and Conference of State Bank Supervisors, implemented a risk-focused examination process in 1997. This process was designed to focus resources on bank functions that pose the greatest risk exposure. Loans comprise a major portion of the asset structure of most banks and, as such, present the greatest potential loss exposure for banks and to the FDIC’s insurance fund.
A thorough review of a banks loan and lease portfolio and other related sources of credit risk is one of the most important elements of the Safety and Soundness examination process. Such credit reviews are a primary means for the examiner to evaluate the effectiveness of internal loan review and credit grading systems, to determine that credit is being extended in compliance with internal lending policies, and to assess the adequacy of capital and the allowance for loan and lease losses. Credit reviews also enable an examiner to ascertain a bank’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations, make an overall judgment as to the safety and soundness of a bank’s lending and credit administration functions, and directly evaluate the quality of a bank’s loan and lease portfolio. The quality of the loan portfolio is not always apparent from financial institution performance indicators, and therefore an accurate assessment of loan quality necessitates an on-site examination analysis.
3. Examiner Guidance: Since examiners must make the most efficient use of limited resources, they are not required to review every loan within a bank’s portfolio. Instead, examiners select for review a sample of loans that is of sufficient size and scope to enable them to reach reliable conclusions about the aforementioned aspects of a bank’s overall lending function. Once an examiner has gathered essential credit information for selected loans to the point where a fair and accurate decision whether to pass the loan can be made, the decision should be documented on the line card and no further analysis is necessary. Further, examiners should assess credit administration and underwriting practices for selected loans.
In selecting a sample of loans for review, examiners should use their discretion to identify an appropriate loan sample for accurately assessing the overall condition of the loan portfolio. Examiners should be guided by the following guidance:
• Commercial and Industrial and Commercial Real Estate Loans
Commercial and industrial and commercial real estate loans subject to examiner review during an examination should include all known problem loans and all insider loans of significant size. (Note: Commercial and industrial and commercial real estate loans, as defined in Call Report Guidance. These categories should be expanded to include agriculture loans, construction loans, or other high risk lending areas when such loans represent a significant lending activity. For the purpose of this guidance, the term "loans" includes all sources of credit exposure arising from loans and leases. Such exposure includes guarantees, letters of credit, and other loan commitments.) Problem loans comprise past-due loans, nonaccrual loans, loans otherwise impaired as defined in Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 114, renegotiated or restructured debt, loans internally criticized or classified by the bank, and loans that were adversely classified at the previous examination. Special Mention loans should also be reviewed. Insider loans are defined by Regulation O and include loans to a related interest of the insider.
In addition, "large" loans should also be reviewed as needed. Large loans are defined as loans, or aggregations of loans to the same or related borrowers, which exceed a dollar cut-off level established by the examiner-in-charge. (Note: Historically, examiners have used two to three percent of capital, or one percent of assets. A higher or lower percentage may be determined by the examiner-in-charge, depending on the circumstances of the bank being examined.)
This "target" group of loans (problem loans, Special Mention loans, insider loans, and large loans) would typically represent a sizable portion of the dollar volume of a bank's total commercial and industrial and commercial real estate loans. In some cases, additional loans may need to be selected from the remaining commercial portfolio so that the examiner can make an accurate and comprehensive assessment of the condition of the bank’s primary lending activities and can further validate the internal watch list.
The loan penetration ratio of the target group of loans should be based on a risk-assessment of the portfolio. (Note: A loan penetration ratio should be calculated by dividing the dollar volume of commercial and industrial and commercial real estate loans reviewed during the examination by a bank’s total dollar volume of such credits. For the purposes of this calculation, loans are defined as outlined [earlier in this Memorandum as defined in Call Report Guidance]. Credit exposures arising from trading said derivative activities are not generally included in this coverage ratio. However, such credit exposures should be reviewed and evaluated in a manner consistent with guidance included in this document. Homogeneous loan pools should be excluded from the coverage ratio calculation because limited loan sampling procedures, along with an assessment of management’s practices and procedures, are often sufficient to assess these pools' overall credit quality. In addition, although Shared National Credits should be reviewed, to determine if there have been any material changes which would warrant a revision in an assigned rating, the dollar volume thereof should be excluded from the loan review coverage ratio calculation. Internally reviewed loans may be included in the coverage ratio only if their accuracy has been validated through statistical sampling.) Banking organizations with asset quality component and/or composite ratings of 3 or worse, or possessing other significant areas of supervisory concern, will generally have the highest target loan penetration ratios. Conversely, the lowest loan penetration coverage would be reserved for those banks that:
Discretionary segmentation/stratification of commercial loans may be necessary. While the goal is to achieve an adequate penetration of the aggregate target group of loans, examiners have the flexibility to narrow their coverage of low-risk loan segments in order to achieve higher penetration rates in sub-categories that pose significant risk. For example, during the Asian financial crisis, certain banks’ commercial loan categories contained loans to various Asian entities that posed significantly higher credit risk than that of their domestic counterparts. In these instances, it would be advisable to achieve higher coverage ratios with respect to these "riskier" portfolio segments.
• Additional Loan Sampling (If Necessary)
Under certain circumstances, subsequent to the start of an examination, it may be determined that additional loans should be added to the predetermined loan sample. Factors that could be considered regarding expanded samples include observations pertaining to internal loan grading systems, underwriting standards, loan file documentation, management information and internal control systems, and the adequacy of loan loss reserves. Existing and developing risk factors such as concentrations of credit, significant loan growth, and new credit products should also be considered. Other important factors to be taken into account include changes in management, economic conditions, the ability and experience of lending staff, and changes in asset quality or lending policies since the last examination.
Further, in determining the extent of additional loans to be reviewed, significant consideration should be given to the effectiveness of the internal credit review and grading system. If, for example, the review of the target group of loans verifies the integrity of the internal credit review and grading system, and there are no other significant risk factors that would necessitate additional sampling, then the volume of additional loans reviewed could be reduced accordingly.
The following factors can be useful in identifying additional loans for sampling. This list is neither mandatory nor all-inclusive; rather, it is a reference tool that, based upon examiner discretion, may be employed when there is a perceived benefit.
Regardless of the total coverage afforded by reviewing the target loan group and additional loans, it is essential that loans selected for review are of sufficient number, volume, and variety to enable the examiner to form reasonable conclusions regarding the condition of the bank’s entire loan and lease portfolio, and the effectiveness of credit administration policies and practices.
• Retail Consumer Loans
Retail consumer lending involves a large number of relatively homogeneous, small-balance loans such as instalment loans, credit card receivables, home equity lines of credit, and residential mortgages. The review and classification of retail consumer loans should be carried out in accordance with the procedures set forth in the DOS Manual of Examination Policies and Interagency Retail Credit Classification Policy and will generally be limited to past due and nonperforming assets. However, the classification of retail loans using these uniform classification methods may also be supplemented by the direct review of larger loans and/or sampling within various categories as considered necessary. In addition, examiners may shorten the periods for classification purposes, where warranted by credit risk. When applicable, examiners should follow the Interagency Policy Statement on Subprime Lending when such loans are encountered.
• Trading and Derivatives Activities
For banks active in such markets, the examination process should also include an assessment of credit exposures arising from foreign exchange and securities trading and derivatives activities. In particular, examiners should ensure that a sufficient number of these exposures are selected for review to allow an assessment of a bank’s overall exposure to, as well as its ability to safely and soundly manage, trading and derivatives activities. Some commercial and industrial and commercial real estate loan relationships selected for review during an examination may include trading or derivatives exposures. However, examiners should also review a sample of credit relationships established solely for the purpose of facilitating trading or derivatives activities.
• Documentation and Discussion of Loan Review Coverage
The scope of loan coverage and loan sampling procedures used in the examination process should be fully discussed with the Case Manager during the preplanning process. Further, loan scope and sampling should be documented within examination work papers and Page A in the confidential section of the Report of Examination. Use of a table as noted in the current Report of Examination Instructions contained in the DOS Manual of Examination Policies is recommended. In particular, examiners should ensure that the reasoning used in determining the composition and volume of the loans reviewed is documented. The loan penetration ratio should also be reported on the Summary Analysis of Examination Report, Line 59F, in accordance with Transmittal 2001-010.
4. Action: This memorandum should be distributed to all examination staff and is effective immediately.
Transmittal Number 01-036
Examination Modules (November 1997)
Commercial/Industrial Real Estate Loan Review
Consider the following procedures at each examination. Examiners are encouraged to exclude items deemed unnecessary. This procedural analysis does not represent every possible action to be taken during an examination. The references are not intended to be all-inclusive and additional guidance may exist. Many of these procedures will address more than one of the Standards and Associated Rinks. For the examination process to be successful, examiners must maintain open communication with bank management and discuss relevant concerns as they arise.
Examination Modules (November 1997)
Commercial and Industrial Loans
Consider the following procedures at each examination. Examiners are encouraged to exclude items deemed unnecessary. This procedural analysis does not represent every possible action to be taken during an examination. The references are not intended to be all-inclusive and additional guidance may exist. Many of these procedures will address more than one of the Standards and Associated Risks. For the examination process to be successful, examiners must maintain open communication with bank management and discuss relevant concerns as they arise.
Commercial and industrial lending covers a wide range of industries and requires varying analyses in order to ascertain credit quality. In general terms, these loans can be divided into three distinct types of financing: seasonal loans, term loans, and asset-based loans. This reference is intended to give examiners an overview of the basic policy and portfolio considerations necessary to evaluate a bank's commercial and industrial lending activities. Guidance regarding specific industries can be found in various banking publications such as those made available by Robert Morris Associates.
Common types of commercial and industrial loans are presented below:
Seasonal loans are short-term obligations that generally fund increases in accounts receivable and inventory. The accounts receivable and inventory are eventually liquidated, and the bank is repaid. Loan proceeds can also fund expenses of a service company until accounts receivable are created and collected.
Term loans are repaid over a period longer than one year, or longer than the normal operating cycle of the borrowing entity. Most often, term loan proceeds are used to purchase fixed assets. However, term loans may also be used to convert a permanent working capital loan with no repayment understanding to a structured repayment, to finance an acquisition or change in ownership, or to arrange orderly repayment of a seasonal line that was not paid out at the bottom of the operating cycle.
Asset-based loans (also referred to as accounts receivable and inventory financing, or revolving credit lines) are advances that are based upon a borrowing base (percent of eligible accounts receivable and inventory, and discounted value of machinery and equipment). This form of financing differs from seasonal financing, which may also attach receivables and inventory, in that lending controls are more aggressive. See ‘Asset-Based Loans’ starting with question 6 for a more detailed analysis of this unique form of financing.
SEASONAL AND TERM LOANS
Examination Modules (November 1997)
Construction and Land Development
Consider the following procedures at each examination. Examiners are encouraged to exclude items deemed unnecessary. This procedural analysis does not represent every possible action to be taken during an examination. The references are not intended to be all-inclusive and additional guidance may exist. Many of these procedures will address more than one of the Standards and Associated Risks. For the examination process to be successful, examiners must maintain open communication with bank management and discuss relevant concerns as they arise.
|Last Updated 05/06/2003||