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Leverage Ratio Arbitrage All Over Again
Leverage limits as a form of capital regulation have a well-known, potential bug: If banks can’t lever returns as desired, they can boost returns on equity by shifting toward riskier, higher yielding assets. That reach for yield is the leverage rule “arbitrage.” But would banks do that? In a previous post, we discussed evidence from our working paper that banks did do just that in response to the new leverage rule that took effect in 2018. This post discusses new findings in our revised paper on when and how banks arbitraged.
Bank leverage limits and regulatory arbitrage: new evidence on a recurring question
Banks are regulated more than most firms, making them good subjects to study regulatory arbitrage (avoidance). Their latest arbitrage opportunity may be the new leverage rule covering the largest U.S. banks; leverage rules require equal capital against assets with unequal risks, so banks can effectively relax the leverage constraint by increasing asset risk. Consistent with that conjecture, we find that banks covered by the new rule shifted to riskier, higher yielding securities relative to control banks. The shift began almost precisely when the rule was finalized in 2014, well before it ...
Leverage Rule Arbitrage
Classic arbitrage involves the same asset selling at different prices; the leverage rule arbitrage we study here involves assets of different risk levels requiring the same amount of capital. The supplementary leverage ratio (SLR) rule, finalized by U.S. regulators in September 2014, requires a minimum ratio of capital to assets at the largest U.S. banks. The floor is higher for more systemically important banks, but not for banks with riskier assets. That non-risk-based aspect of SLR was intentional, since the leverage limit was meant to backstop (?supplement?) risk-based capital rules in ...