Recent Growth Underscores Need for Continued Improvements in Risk

March 28, 2013

What GAO Found

From fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2012, the U.S. Export-Import Bank's (Ex-Im) outstanding financial commitments (exposure) grew from about $59 billion to about $107 billion, largely in long-term loans and guarantees. Factors associated with this growth include reduced private-sector financing following the financial crisis and Ex-Im's authorization of direct loans--a product not offered by export credit agencies in some other countries--to fill the gap in private-sector lending.

Ex-Im's processes for determining credit subsidy costs, loss reserves and allowances, and fees account for multiple risks. To implement the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 and other requirements, Ex-Im calculates subsidy costs and loss reserves and allowances with a loss model that uses historical data and takes credit, political, and other risks into account. Consistent with industry practices, Ex-Im added factors to the model in 2012 to adjust for circumstances that may cause estimated credit losses to differ from historical experience. Opportunities exist to further improve the model. For example, Ex-Im uses a 1-year forecast of certain bond defaults to predict possible changes in loss estimates from changed economic conditions. However, a short-term forecast may not be appropriate for adjusting estimated defaults for longer-term products. Ex-Im's fees are generally risk-based and, for medium- and long-term products (about 85 percent of Ex-Im's exposure), guided by international agreements that set minimum fees that account for credit and political risk.

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