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Environmental Risk: Should Banks Be Liable?

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  • GOBERT, Karine
  • POITEVIN, Michel

Abstract

This paper studies the impact of banks' liability for environmental damages caused by their borrowers. Laws or court decisions that declare banks liable for environmental damages have two objectives : (1) finding someone to pay for the damages and (2) exerting a pressure on a firm's stakeholders to incite them to invest in environmental risk prevention. We study the effect that such legal decisions can have on financing relationships and especially on the incentives to reduce environmental risk in an environment where banks cannot commit to refinance the firm in all circumstances. Following an environmental accident, liable banks more readily agree to refinance the firm. We then show that bank liability effectively makes refinancing more attractive to banks, therefore improving the firm's risk-sharing possibilities. Consequently, the firm's incentives to invest in environmental risk reduction are weakened compared to the (bank) no-liability case. We also show that, when banks are liable, the firm invests at the full-commitment optimal level of risk reduction investment. If there are some externalities such that some damages cannot be accounted for, the socially efficient level of investment is greater than the privately optimal one. in that case, making banks non-liable can be socially desirable.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1866/516
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 9808.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 1998
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:9808

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Keywords: environment; bank liability; financial contracts; non-commitment;

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References

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  1. Thomas, Jonathan & Worrall, Tim, 1988. "Self-enforcing Wage Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(4), pages 541-54, October.
  2. Segerson, Kathleen & Tietenberg, Tom, 1992. "The structure of penalties in environmental enforcement: An economic analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 179-200, September.
  3. Boyer, Marcel & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1994. "Environmental Risks and Bank Liability," IDEI Working Papers 45, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  4. BOYER, Marcel, 1995. "Environmental Protection Producer Insolvency and Lender Liability," Cahiers de recherche 9557, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  5. Weitzman, M.L., 1993. "On the 'Environmental' Discount Rate," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1625, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Segerson Kathleen, 1993. "Liability Transfers: An Economic Assessment of Buyer and Lender Liability," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages S46-S63, July.
  7. T. Randolph Beard, 1990. "Bankruptcy and Care Choice," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(4), pages 626-634, Winter.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. André SCHMITT & Sandrine SPAETER, 2002. "Improving the Prevention of Environmental Risks with Convertible Bonds," Working Papers of BETA 2002-14, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
  2. Marcel Boyer & Donatella Porrini, 2000. "Law versus Regulation: A Political Economy Model of Instrument Choice in Environmental Policy," CIRANO Working Papers 2000s-57, CIRANO.
  3. Marcel Boyer & Donatella Porrini, 2007. "Sharing Liability Between Banks and Firms: The Case of Industrial Safety Risk," CIRANO Working Papers 2007s-04, CIRANO.
  4. Sandrine SPAETER, 2002. "Principe de precaution et comportements preventifs des firmes face aux risques environnementaux," Working Papers of BETA 2002-08, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.

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