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After falling victim to conventional wisdom last week, and speculating whether the FDIC had weeks or days remaining before it would need a Deposit Insurance Fund restoration bailout, I determined that the prudent course of action was to dig a little deeper into the issue.

Specifically, I wanted to know the basics behind whatever accounting procedures took place at the FDIC in order to generate the headline "balance" of the Deposit Insurance Fund.

In doing so, I came across several dissenting opinions (including an especially well-written article in American Banker) which, through a more precise look at the DIF, determined that the Fund has actually remained relatively stable despite there being nearly 100 bank failures in 2009 alone.

Furthermore, I would argue that the Deposit Insurance Fund is not only far from depletion, but also unlikely to come under any considerable stress throughout the forthcoming year.

Most media representations of the DIF involve the reporting of the final line of the Deposit Insurance Fund's balance sheet, which is labeled "Fund Balance". While this may seem like the logical thing for journalists to do, the truth is that it is an inaccurate measure of the FDIC's funds available to absorb depositor losses.

Basically, the DIF's balance sheet is arranged much like any other corporation's would be, although the underlying "accounting equation" carries one distinct label; Assets = Liabilities + Fund Balance. To assume that the line labeled "Fund Balance" is inclusive of the FDIC's total deposit insurance resources at the moment is to ignore a line in the liabilities section labeled "Contingent Liabilities: future failures".

This line item represents the FDIC's best estimation of the next four quarter's worth of failure related DIF losses, and is adjusted based upon the FDIC's assessment of troubled bank's balance sheets/loan losses/deposits etc. At the end of Q2'09, the FDIC had set aside $31.968B to cover losses it expects to occur over the next year. For the 12 months ended June '09, the DIF's headline "balance" has declined by $34.849B; however, Contingent Liabilities have risen by $21.378B.

In other words, although the Fund's balance has declined 77% year over year, the FDIC's loss absorbing resources have only declined by 24% over the same period of time.

When you consider the substantial rise in Contingent Liabilities, along with the fact that the DIF has guaranteed revenue in the form of FDIC "assessments" on the banking industry, it becomes clear that the Deposit Insurance Fund is in a lot better shape than many give it credit.

InfoNgen was used to research this article.

Disclosure: no positions

Source: The FDIC's Deposit Insurance Fund: Adequately Capitalized