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 ...
The Treasury Market Practices Group: creation and early initiatives
Modern money and capital markets are not free-form bazaars where participants are left alone to contract as they choose, but rather are circumscribed by a variety of statutes, regulations, and behavioral norms. This paper examines the circumstances surrounding the introduction of a set of norms recommended by the Treasury Market Practices Group (TMPG) and pertinent to trading in U.S. government securities. The TMPG is a voluntary association of market participants that does not have any direct or indirect statutory authority; its recommendations do not have the force of law. The ...
Federal Reserve Participation in Public Treasury Offerings
This paper describes the evolution of Federal Reserve participation in public Treasury offerings. It covers the pre-1935 period, when the Fed participated on an equal footing with other investors in exchange offerings priced by Treasury officials, to its present-day practice of reinvesting the proceeds of maturing securities with “add-ons” priced in public auctions in which the Fed does not participate. The paper describes how the Federal Reserve System adapted its operating procedures to comply with the 1935 limitations on its Treasury purchases, how it modified its operating procedures ...
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 ...
Managing the Treasury Yield Curve in the 1940s
This paper examines the efforts of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to first control, and later decontrol, the level and shape of the Treasury yield curve in the 1940s. The paper begins with a brief review of monetary policy in 1938 and a description of the period between September 1939 and December 1941, when the idea of maintaining a fixed yield curve first appeared. It then discusses the financing of U.S. participation in World War II and the experience with maintaining a fixed curve. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the FOMC regained control of monetary policy in the ...
The Effect of the Central Bank Liquidity Support during Pandemics: Evidence from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic
The coronavirus outbreak raises the question of how central bank liquidity support affects financial stability and promotes economic recovery. Using newly assembled data on cross-county flu mortality rates and state-charter bank balance sheets in New York State, we investigate the effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic on the banking system and the role of the Federal Reserve during the pandemic. We find that banks located in more severely affected areas experienced deposit withdrawals. Banks that were members of the Federal Reserve System were able to access central bank liquidity, enabling ...
Managing the Maturity Structure of Marketable Treasury Debt: 1953-1983
This paper examines the evolution of the maturity structure of marketable Treasury debt from 1953 to 1983. Average maturity contracted erratically from 1953 to 1960, expanded through mid-1965, contracted again through late 1975, and then expanded into the early 1980s. What accounts for these broad trends? In particular, what were the maturity objectives of Treasury debt managers? Were they able to achieve their objectives? Why or why not?
Liquidity from Two Lending Facilities
During financial crises, the lender of last resort (LOLR) uses lending facilities to inject critical funding into the banking sector. The facilities need to be designed in such a way that banks are not reluctant to seek assistance due to stigma and that banks with liquidity concerns are attracted rather than those prone to risk-taking and moral hazard incentives. We use an unexpected disclosure that introduced stigma at one of two similar LOLRs during the Great Depression to evaluate whether banks used LOLR assistance to improve their liquidity needs using a novel trivariate model with ...
Managing a New Policy Framework: Paul Volcker, the St. Louis Fed, and the 1979-82 War on Inflation
In October 1979, Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker persuaded his Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) colleagues to adopt a new policy framework that (i) accepted responsibility for controlling inflation and (ii) implemented new operating procedures to control the growth of monetary aggregates in an effort to restore price stability. These moves were strongly supported by monetarist-oriented economists, including the leadership and staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The next three years saw inflation peak and then fall sharply but also two recessions and considerable ...
Did the Founding of the Federal Reserve Affect the Vulnerability of the Interbank System to Congation Risk?
As a result of legal restrictions on branch banking, an extensive interbank system developed in the United States during the nineteenth century to facilitate interregional payments and flows of liquidity and credit. Vast sums moved through the interbank system to meet seasonal and other demands, but the system also transmitted shocks during banking panics. The Federal Reserve was established in 1914 to reduce reliance on the interbank system and to correct other defects that caused banking system instability. Drawing on recent theoretical work on interbank networks, we examine how the Fed?s ...