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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page A Risk-Factor Model Foundation for Ratings-Based Bank Capital Rules
Michael B. Gordy

Abstract: When economic capital is calculated using a portfolio model of credit value-at-risk, the marginal capital requirement for an instrument depends, in general, on the properties of the portfolio in which it is held. By contrast, ratings-based capital rules, including both the current Basel Accord and its proposed revision, assign a capital charge to an instrument based only on its own characteristics. I demonstrate that ratings-based capital rules can be reconciled with the general class of credit VaR models. Contributions to VaR are portfolio-invariant only if (a) there is only a single systematic risk factor driving correlations across obligors, and (b) no exposure in a portfolio accounts for more than an arbitrarily small share of total exposure. Analysis of rates of convergence to asymptotic VaR leads to a simple and accurate portfolio-level add-on charge for undiversified idiosyncratic risk. There is no similarly simple way to address violation of the single factor assumption.

Keywords: Capital allocation, banking regulation, value-at-risk

Full paper (213 KB PDF)

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Last update: November 18, 2002