No. 417 - Risks and challenges of complex financial instruments: an analysis of SSM banks

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by R. Roca and F. Potente (coordinators), L. G. Ciavoliello, A. Conciarelli, G. Diprizio, L. Lodi, R. Mosca, T. Perez, J. Raponi, E. Sabatini, A. SchifinoDecember 2017

We investigate the valuation risk affecting financial instruments classified as L2 and L3 for accounting purposes. These are instruments that are not directly traded in active markets and are often relatively complex, opaque and illiquid.

There is a huge volume of L2 and L3 instruments in the balance sheets of SSM banks (around €6.8 trillion worth, considering both assets and liabilities). We argue that the complexity and opacity of these instruments create substantial room for discretionary accounting and prudential choices by financial intermediaries, which have incentives to use this discretion to their advantage.

The current regulatory reporting standard is not sufficient to make a comprehensive assessment of the overall risks stemming from L2 and L3 instruments. We highlight that these instruments share some characteristics with NPLs (illiquidity, opacity), and argue that the risk they pose might also be comparable.