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Reducing moral hazard at the expense of market discipline: the effectiveness of double liability before and during the Great Depression
Prior to the Great Depression, regulators imposed double liability on bank shareholders to ensure financial stability and protect depositors. Under double liability, shareholders of failing banks lost their initial investment and had to pay up to the par value of the stock in order to compensate depositors. We examine whether double liability was effective at mitigating bank risks and providing a safety net for depositors before and during the Great Depression. We first develop a model that demonstrates two competing effects of double liability: a direct effect that constrains bank risk taking as a result of increased skin in the game, and an indirect effect that promotes risk taking owing to weaker monitoring by better-protected depositors. We then test the model?s predictions using a novel identification strategy that compares state Federal Reserve member banks and national banks in New York and New Jersey. We find no evidence that double liability reduced bank risk prior to the Great Depression, but do find evidence that deposits in double-liability banks were stickier and less susceptible to runs during the Great Depression. Our findings suggest that the banking system was inherently fragile under double liability because of the conflict between shareholder incentive alignment and depositor market discipline; the depositor protection feature of double liability reduced the threat of funding outflows but may have undermined its effectiveness as a regulatory tool for reducing bank risk.
AUTHORS: Anderson, Haelim; Barth, Daniel; Choi, Dong Beom
Information Management in Times of Crisis
How does information management and control affect bank stability? Following a national bank holiday in 1933, New York state bank regulators suspended the publication of balance sheets of state-charter banks for two years, whereas the national-charter bank regulator did not. We use this divergence in policies to examine how the suspension of bank-specific information affected depositors. We find that state-charter banks experienced significantly less deposit outflows than national-charter banks in 1933. However, the behavior of bank deposits across both types of banks converged in 1934 after the introduction of federal deposit insurance.
AUTHORS: Copeland, Adam; Anderson, Haelim
The Value of Opacity in a Banking Crisis
During moments of heightened economic uncertainty, authorities often need to decide on how much information to disclose. For example, during crisis periods, we often observe regulators limiting access to bank‑level information with the goal of restoring the public's confidence in banks. Thus, information management often plays a central role in ending financial crises. Despite the perceived importance of managing information about individual banks during a financial crisis, we are not aware of any empirical work that quantifies the effect of such policies. In this blog post, we highlight results from our recent working paper, demonstrating that in a crisis, a policy of suppressing information about banks' balance sheets has a significant and positive effect on deposits.
AUTHORS: Anderson, Haelim; Copeland, Adam