Tag: Financial policies

Bankruptcy Versus Bailout of Socially Important Non-Financial Institutions

Shlomit Azgad-Tromer is a visiting scholar at Berkeley Law School. This post is based on the article Too Important to Fail: Bankruptcy Versus Bailout of Socially Important Non-Financial Institutions.

Systemically important financial institutions are broadly considered to pose a risk to the entire economy upon failure. Thus governments act upon their failure, providing them with an implied insurance policy for ongoing liquidity. Yet governments frequently provide de facto liquidity insurance for non-financial institutions as well. For example, recently in the U.K., 35 hospital trusts were sharing £536 million in non-repayable bailouts in order to keep services running smoothly during 2013-2014. A decade earlier, a federal bankruptcy judge approved California’s multibillion-dollar bailout of Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation. In an effort to stabilize and sustain air transportation after 9/11, the U.S. Congress passed the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, which provided the airline industry with financial aid valued at as much as $10 billion. In all of these cases, taxpayer money was used to rescue non-financial institutions.


Securing Our Nation’s Economic Future

Leo E. Strine, Jr. is Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, the Austin Wakeman Scott Lecturer on Law and a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. This post is based on Chief Justice Strine’s recent keynote address to the Fellows Colloquium of the American College of Governance Counsel, available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here), The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here), and Can We Do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law, by Leo E. Strine (discussed on the Forum here).

These days it has become fashionable to talk about a subject some of us have been addressing for some time: [1] whether the incentive system for the governance of American corporations optimally encourages long-term investment, sustainable policies, and therefore creates the most long-term economic and social benefit for American workers and investors. Many commentators have come to the conclusion that the answer to that question is no. They bemoan the pressures that can lead corporate managers to quick fixes like offshoring, which might give a balance sheet a short-term benefit, but cut our nation’s long-term prospects. They lament the relative tilt in corporate spending toward stock buybacks and away from spending on capital expenditures. They look at situations where corporations took environmental or other regulatory short-cuts, which ended up in disaster, and ask whether anyone is thinking about sustainable approaches. They rightly point to the accounting gimmickry involved in several high-profile debacles and ask what it has to do with the creation of long-term wealth for human investors.


A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America

The following post comes to us from John Graham, Professor of Finance at Duke University; Mark Leary of the Finance Area at Washington University in St. Louis; and Michael Roberts, Professor of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

In our paper, A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, we shed light on the evolution and determination of corporate financial policy by analyzing a unique panel data set containing accounting and financial market information for US nonfinancial publicly traded firms over the last century. Our analysis is organized around three questions. First, how have corporate capital structures changed over the past one hundred years? Second, do existing empirical models of capital structure account for these changes? And, third, if not explained by existing empirical models, what forces are behind variation in financial policy over the last century?


New Approaches to International Financial Regulation

The following post comes to us from Annelise Riles, Jack G. Clarke Professor of Far East Legal Studies and Professor of Anthropology at Cornell Law School.

International financial law scholarship is undergoing a revolution. The financial crisis of 2008 has led to a dramatic rethinking of the “givens,” and has attracted a new community of scholars to the field. Until 2008, international legal theory played only a minor role in international financial law. The implicit and taken for granted neoclassical economic theory that undergirded debates about global financial regulation was presumed to be all the theory that could or should apply, and the analysis focused rather simply and uniformly on questions of efficiency and social welfare. Since the financial crisis, however, the mainstream debate has shifted its focus to so-called “macro-prudential issues” and to an awareness of a need for some sort of global, or at least a transnationally coordinated response to systemic risk.


What It Takes for the FDIC SPOE Resolution Proposal to Work

The following post comes to us from Karen Petrou, co-founder and managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics, Inc., and is based on a letter and a FedFin white paper submitted to the FDIC by Ms. Petrou; the full texts are available here.

In a comment letter and supporting paper to the FDIC on its single-point-of-entry (SPOE) resolution concept release, Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics, argues that SPOE is conceptually sound and statutorily robust. However, progress to date on orderly liquidation has been so cautious as to cloud the credibility of assertions that the largest U.S. financial institutions, especially the biggest banks, are no longer too big to fail (“TBTF”). Crafting a new resolution regime is of course a complex undertaking that benefits from as much consensus as possible. However, if definitive action is not quickly taken on a policy construct for single-point-of-entry resolutions resolving high-level questions about its practicality and functionality under stress, markets will revert to TBTF expectations that renew market distortions, place undue competitive pressure on small firms, and stoke systemic risk. Even more dangerous, the FDIC may not be ready when systemic risk strikes again.

Questions addressed in detail in the paper and Ms. Petrou’s answers to them are summarized below:


Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Not Guilty As Not Charged

The following post comes to us from Nizan Geslevich Packin of the University of Pennsylvania Law School; Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, City University of New York.

In the paper, Breaking Bad? Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Not Guilty As Not Charged, forthcoming in the Washington University Law Review, Vol. 91, No. 4, 2014, I focus on the benefits that the largest financial institutions receive because they are too-big-to-fail. Since the 2008 financial crisis, rating agencies, regulators, global organizations, and academics have argued that large banks receive significant competitive advantages because the market still perceives them as likely to be saved in a future financial crisis. The most significant advantage is a government implicit subsidy, which stems from this market perception and enables the largest banks to borrow at lower interest rates. And while government subsidies were the subject of a November 2013 Government Accounting Office report, in the paper I focus on a specific aspect of the benefits the largest banks receive: the economic advantages resulting from exempting the largest financial institutions from criminal statutes. I argue that this exemption—which has been widely discussed in the media over the last few years, following several scandals involving large financial institutions—not only contributes to the subsidies’ economic value, but also creates incentives for unethical and even criminal activity.


Understanding the Failures of Market Discipline

The following post comes to us from David Min of University of California, Irvine School of Law.

Last week, James Kwak (UConn law professor, co-author of 13 Bankers and White House Burning, and blogger at the Baseline Scenario) provided a nice writeup of some of the key issues I identify in my paper, Understanding the Failures of Market Discipline, recently posted to SSRN. But I wanted to take a few words to provide a slightly more detailed explanation of my work.

“Market discipline”—the notion that short-term creditors (such as bank depositors) can efficiently identify and rein in bank risk—has been a central pillar of banking regulation since the 1980s. Obviously, market discipline did not prevent the buildup of bank risk that caused the recent financial crisis, but the general consensus has been that this failure was due to structural impediments to the effective operation of market discipline—such as misaligned incentives, a lack of transparency, or moral hazard caused by implicit guarantees—rather than any problems with the concept itself. As a result, a major point of emphasis in financial regulatory reform efforts has been to improve and strengthen market discipline.


Practical Guidance on Macroprudential Finance-Regulatory Reform

The following post comes to us from Robert Hockett, Professor of Financial and International Economic Law at Cornell Law School.

The global financial troubles of 2008-09, with whose debt-deflationary macroeconomic consequences [1] the world continues to struggle, [2] exposed weaknesses in many financial sector oversight regimes. Most of these had in common their focus on the safety and soundness of individual financial institutions to the exclusion of the stability of financial systems as wholes—wholes whose structural features render them more than mere sums of their institutional parts.

A number of academic, governmental, and other finance-regulatory authorities, myself included, [3] have accordingly concluded that an appropriately inclusive finance-regulatory oversight regime must concern itself as much with the identification and mitigation of systemic risk as with that of institutional risk. Once primarily ‘microprudential’ finance-regulatory oversight and policy instruments, in other words, are now understood to be in need of supplementation with ‘macroprudential’ finance-regulatory oversight and policy instruments.

Now because finance-regulatory policy in most jurisdictions is implemented through law, all of the weaknesses inherent in exclusively microprudential finance-regulatory regimes are, among other things, legal problems. They are weaknesses in what some non-American lawyers call existing ‘legal frameworks.’ Many countries in consequence are now looking to update their legal frameworks for finance-regulatory oversight, supplementing their traditional microprudential foci and methods with macroprudential counterparts.


Rollover Risk: Ideating a U.S. Debt Default

The following post comes to us from Steven L. Schwarcz, Stanley A. Star Professor of Law & Business at Duke University School of Law.

In Rollover Risk: Ideating a U.S. Debt Default, forthcoming in the Boston College Law Review, I systematically examine how a U.S. debt default might occur, how it could be avoided, its potential consequences if not avoided, and how those consequences could be mitigated. The impending debt-ceiling showdown between Congress and the President makes these questions especially topical. The Republican majority in Congress is conditioning any raise in the federal debt ceiling on spending cuts and reforms. Yet without raising the debt ceiling, the government may end up defaulting, perhaps as early as mid-October.

Even without that showdown, however, these questions are important. As the article explains, certain types of U.S. debt defaults, due to rollover risk, are actually quite realistic. This is the risk that the government will be temporarily unable to borrow sufficient funds to repay—sometimes termed, to refinance—its maturing debt.

Because rollover risk is such a concern, one might ask why governments, including the United States, routinely depend on borrowing new money to repay their maturing debt. The answer is cost: using short-term debt to fund long-term projects is attractive because, if managed to avoid a default, it tends to lower the cost of borrowing. The interest rate on short-term debt is usually lower than that on long-term debt because, other things being equal, it is easier to assess a borrower’s ability to repay in the short term than in the long term, and long-term debt carries greater interest-rate risk. But this cost-saving does not come free of charge: it increases the threat of default.


Bank Regulation and Supervision in 180 Countries from 1999 to 2011

Ross Levine is Professor of Economics at UC, Berkeley.

Motivating an investigation of bank regulation and supervision is easy. One can point to the global banking crisis of 2007-2009, the banking problems still plaguing many European countries in 2013, and the more than 100 systemic banking crises that have devastated economies around the world since 1970. All these crises reflect, at least partially, defects in bank regulation and supervision. One can also point to research showing that banks matter for human welfare beyond periodic crises. Banks influence economic growth, poverty, entrepreneurship, labor market conditions, and the economic opportunities available to people. Thus, examining the type and impact of bank regulatory and supervisory policies in countries is a critical area of inquiry.

The problem, however, is that measuring bank regulation and supervision around the world is hard. Hundreds of laws and regulations, emanating from different parts of national and local governments, define policies regarding bank capital standards, the entry requirements of new domestic and foreign banks, bank ownership restrictions, and loan provisioning guidelines. Numerous pages of regulations in most countries delineate the permitted activities of banks and provide shape and substance to deposit insurance schemes and the nature and timing of the information that banks must disclose to regulators and the public. And, extensive statutes define the powers of regulatory and supervisory officials over banks — and the limits of those powers. There are daunting challenges associated with acquiring data on all of the laws, regulations, and practices that apply to banks in countries and then aggregating this information into useful statistics that capture different and important aspects of regulatory regimes. This helps explain why the systematic collection of data on bank regulatory and supervisory policies is only in its nascent stages. Yet, without sound measures of banking policies across countries and over time, researchers will be correspondingly constrained in assessing which policies work best to promote well-functioning banking systems, and in proposing socially beneficial reforms to banking policies in need of improvement.