) -- The
said Wednesday that will require banks to provide detailed stress tests and capital plans before they move ahead with dividend restoration.
The decision comes after months of investors anxiously awaiting dividend hikes -- and just after a Congressional Oversight Panel and witnesses at a hearing on Tuesday urged regulators to stress tests the banks once again.
In guidelines issued for capital use in 2011, the Fed said banks must provide "a comprehensive capital plan" by Jan. 7. The plan must incorporates a stress test to consider a range of economic, market and operational conditions, including severe scnarios, to estimate potential capital needs.
"It should capture, among other elements, management's estimates of potential losses, revenues and the amount of capital needed to withstand these scenarios and be able to continue to operate in a safe and sound financial condition," said the Fed.
Banks that will be required to undergo another review of capital adequacy are the same 19 that faced stress tests in the spring of 2009:
Bank of America
Bank of New York Mellon
(then known as GMAC),
Confidence returned to the market after the Fed released the results of its own stress test in May of last year. The results showed those banks needed to raise another $74.6 billion in capital to prepare for a worst-case scenario -- far less than investors had feared.
In recent weeks, several of the country's largest mortgage servicers have faced intense scrutiny over their mortgage practices - from origination to foreclosure. Investigations and lawsuits related to origination, securitization and foreclosure practices have led to speculative estimates of potential damage.
>>>Read More: Foreclosure Crisis: JPMorgan Admits 'Mistakes'
Numbers related to Bank of America particularly spooked risk-averse investors, sending its stock down sharply over a two-week period. The bank itself outlined buyback-loss exposure in a range of $4 billion to $375 billion within a matter of days.
On Tuesday, the oversight panel's report indicated that the entire industry may only face $52 billion in buyback losses between 2009 and 2013 - much of which has already been booked or reserved for. But the report came with several caveats and indicated that uncertainty is still reigning supreme.
>>>Report Downplays Banks' Mortgage Risk
The panel also indicated U.S. Treasury Department's assessment that there is no risk to the financial system appears premature.
"Treasury should explain why it sees no danger," said the report. "Bank regulators should also conduct new stress tests on Wall Street banks to measure their ability to deal with a potential crisis."
At a conference the same day, Stanford University finance professor Darrell Duffie agreed. Speaking to regulators from the Fed, Senate Banking Committee, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and bank representatives, Duffie proposed that banks undergo quarterly, deep-level stress tests to identify risks that could upend the financial system.
"I'm not talking about the ordinary, matter-of-course, risk management of institutions," Duffie said during his presentation, according to
. "We're looking at what are the sources of risk and how are they flowing through the system. We want to connect the dots."
>>>Read More: Wall Street Whispers: Bank Stocks' Real Risk
Banks have attempted to play down the risk of the robosigning and buyback issues as well. During conference calls last month, executives at Bank of America, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo all implied that the foreclosure issues were simply documentation errors that could easily be fixed and appeared eager to restore dividends as soon as possible.
-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York
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