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Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Staff Reports
Bank holding company dividends and repurchases during the financial crisis
Beverly Hirtle

Many large U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) continued to pay dividends during the 2007-09 financial crisis, even as financial market conditions deteriorated, large losses accumulated, and emergency capital and liquidity were being provided by the official sector. In contrast, share repurchases by these BHCs dropped sharply in the early part of the crisis. Documenting this divergent behavior is one of the key contributions of this paper. The paper also examines the role that repurchases played in large BHCs’ decisions to reduce or eliminate dividends. The key findings are that smaller BHCs in the sample with higher levels of repurchases before the financial crisis reduced dividends later and by less than BHCs with lower pre‐crisis repurchases, suggesting that repurchases may have served as a cushion against cutting dividends. In contrast, there is only a weak relationship between pre‐crisis repurchases and the timing and extent of dividend reductions for the larger BHCs, even though these BHCs were more likely overall to reduce or eliminate dividends during the crisis.

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Beverly Hirtle, Bank holding company dividends and repurchases during the financial crisis, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Staff Reports 666, 01 Mar 2014, revised 01 Apr 2016.
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Keywords: bank capital; stock repurchases; bank dividends; financial crisis
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