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Fallacies, Irrelevant Facts, and Myths in the Discussion of Capital Regulation: Why Bank Equity Is Not Expensive

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  • Admati, Anat R.

    (Stanford University)

  • DeMarzo, Peter M.

    (Stanford University)

  • Hellwig, Martin F.

    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods)

  • Pfleiderer, Paul

    (Stanford University)

Abstract

We examine the pervasive view that "equity is expensive," which leads to claims that high capital requirements are costly and would affect credit markets adversely. We find that arguments made to support this view are either fallacious, irrelevant, or very weak. For example, the return on equity contains a risk premium that must go down if banks have more equity. It is thus incorrect to assume that the required return on equity remains fixed as capital requirements increase. It is also incorrect to translate higher taxes paid by banks to a social cost. Policies that subsidize debt and indirectly penalize equity through taxes and implicit guarantees are distortive. Any desirable public subsidies to banks' activities should be given directly and not in ways that encourage leverage. Finally, suggestions that high leverage serves a necessary disciplining role are based on inadequate theory lacking empirical support. We conclude that bank equity is not socially expensive, and that high leverage is not necessary for banks to perform all their socially valuable functions, including lending, taking deposits and issuing money-like securities. To the contrary, better capitalized banks suffer fewer distortions in lending decisions and would perform better. The fact that banks choose high leverage does not imply that this is socially optimal, and, viewed from an ex ante perspective, high leverage may not even be privately optimal for banks. Setting equity requirements significantly higher than the levels currently proposed would entail large social benefits and minimal, if any, social costs. Approaches based on equity dominate alternatives, including contingent capital. To achieve better capitalization quickly and efficiently and prevent disruption to lending, regulators must actively control equity payouts and issuance. If remaining challenges are addressed, capital regulation can be a powerful tool for enhancing the role of banks in the economy.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Stanford University, Graduate School of Business in its series Research Papers with number 2065.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:2065

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Cited by:
  1. Maier, Ulf & Haufler, Andreas, 2013. "Regulatory competition in credit markets with capital standards as signals," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79769, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  2. Enrico Berkes & Ugo Panizza & Jean-Louis Arcand, 2012. "Too Much Finance?," IMF Working Papers 12/161, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Olga Gorelkina & Wolfgang Kuhle, 2013. "Information Aggregation Through Stock Prices and the Cost of Capital," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2013_18, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  4. Alfredo Martin-Oliver & Sonia Ruano & Vicente Salas-Fumas, 2013. "Banks' Equity Capital Frictions, Capital Ratios, and Interest Rates: Evidence from Spanish Banks," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 9(1), pages 183-225, March.
  5. Sudipto Bhattacharya & Charles Goodhart & Dimitrios Tsomocos & Alexandros Vardoulakis, 2011. "Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis and the Leverage Cycle," FMG Special Papers sp202, Financial Markets Group.
  6. Lukas Scheffknecht, 2013. "Contextualizing Systemic Risk," ROME Working Papers 201317, ROME Network.
  7. Naude, Wim, 2009. "The Global Economic Crisis after One Year: Is a New Paradigm for Recovery in Developing Countries Emerging?," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER UNU Policy Brie, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  8. Hans Gersbach & Jan Wenzelburger, . "Refined Risk Assessment and Banking Stability," Working Papers ETH-RC-13-005, ETH Zurich, Chair of Systems Design.
  9. ap Gwilym, Rhys & Kanas, Angelos & Molyneux, Philip, 2013. "U.S. prompt corrective action and bank risk," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 239-257.
  10. Kok, Christoffer & Schepens, Glenn, 2013. "Bank reactions after capital shortfalls," Working Paper Series 1611, European Central Bank.
  11. Friedrich L. Sell, 2012. "Some of the Pros and Cons of Central Banking Supervision by the ECB," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 13(4), pages 40-45, December.
  12. von Furstenberg, George M., 2011. "Contingent capital to strengthen the private safety net for financial institutions: Cocos to the rescue?," Discussion Paper Series 2: Banking and Financial Studies 2011,01, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  13. Michal Kowalik, 2011. "Countercyclical capital regulation: should bank regulators use rules or discretion?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q II.

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