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Does “Skin in the Game” Reduce Risk Taking? Leverage, Liability and the Long-Run Consequences of New Deal Banking Reforms

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  • Kris James Mitchener
  • Gary Richardson

Abstract

This essay examines how the Banking Acts of the 1933 and 1935 and related New Deal legislation influenced risk taking in the financial sector of the U.S. economy. The analysis focuses on contingent liability of bank owners for losses incurred by their firms and how the elimination of this liability influenced leverage and lending by commercial banks. Using a new panel data set, we find contingent liability reduced risk taking. In states with contingent liability, banks used less leverage and converted each dollar of capital into fewer loans, and thus could survive larger loan losses (as a fraction of their portfolio) than banks in limited liability states. In states with limited liability, banks took on more leverage and risk, particularly in states that required banks with limited liability to join the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In the long run, the New Deal replaced a regime of contingent liability with deposit insurance, stricter balance sheet regulation, and increased capital requirements, shifting the onus of risk management from bankers to state and federal regulators.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18895.

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Date of creation: Mar 2013
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Publication status: published as Mitchener, Kris James & Richardson, Gary, 2013. "Does “skin in the game” reduce risk taking? Leverage, liability and the long-run consequences of new deal banking reforms," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 508-525.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18895

Note: DAE ME
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  1. Kris James Mitchener, 2007. "Are Prudential Supervision and Regulation Pillars of Financial Stability? Evidence from the Great Depression," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50, pages 273-302.
  2. Mitchener, Kris James, 2005. "Bank Supervision, Regulation, and Instability During the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(01), pages 152-185, March.
  3. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1963. "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie63-1, October.
  4. Kroszner, Randall S & Rajan, Raghuram G, 1994. "Is the Glass-Steagall Act Justified? A Study of the U.S. Experience with Universal Banking before 1933," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 810-32, September.
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  7. Calomiris, Charles W., 1990. "Is Deposit Insurance Necessary? A Historical Perspective," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(02), pages 283-295, June.
  8. Randall S. Kroszner, 1998. "Rethinking Bank Regulation: A Review Of The Historical Evidence," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 11(2), pages 48-58.
  9. Maddala, G S & Rao, A S, 1973. "Tests for Serial Correlation in Regression Models with Lagged Dependent Variables and Serially Correlated Errors," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 761-74, July.
  10. Grossman, Richard S., 2007. "Fear and greed: The evolution of double liability in American banking, 1865-1930," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 59-80, January.
  11. Charles W. Calomiris & Berry Wilson, 2004. "Bank Capital and Portfolio Management: The 1930s "Capital Crunch" and the Scramble to Shed Risk," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(3), pages 421-456, July.
  12. Grossman, Richard S, 2001. "Double Liability and Bank Risk Taking," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 33(2), pages 143-59, May.
  13. Berry K. Wilson & Edward J. Kane, 1996. "The Demise of Double Liability as an Optimal Contract for Large-Bank Stockholders," NBER Working Papers 5848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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