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No Room for Weak Links in the Chain of Deposit Insurance Reform


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  • Edward J. Kane


Unrecognized and deferred losses at insured deposit institutions currently impair the capacity of the nation's principal deposit insurers (the FDIC and FSLIC) both to discipline failing institutions and to discipline or take over insolvent ones. These agencies' accrued but unreported losses far exceed their explicit financial resources. Moreover, their backlog of unresolved problem cases far exceeds the workload that their existing staffs can handle. What holds the deposit-institution system together is financial-market participants' so-far-unshakable faith that politicians and bureaucrats cannot afford to let the FDIC and FSLIC renege on the obligations that they and their predecessors have permitted these agencies to assume. Underlying this belief is a conjectural economic assessment of the strength and constancy of incentives that direct elected politicians to bail out politically sensitive enterprises. This paper addresses three tasks: (1) to clarify the defects in the information, monitoring, regulatory-response, and incentive sub-systems of federal deposit insurance that, by subsidizing institutional risk-taking, led so many deposit institutions and their insurers into economic insolvency; (2) to identify a generic mix of reforms that could in principle put the system right again; and (3) to explain how far proposals for reform that hold a place on the active legislative and regulatory agenda fall short of this ideal.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2317.

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Date of creation: Jul 1987
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Financial Services Research, Vol. 1, No. 1, September 1987, pp. 77-111.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2317

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Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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Cited by:
  1. Lee, Soon-Jae & Smith, Michael L., 1999. "Property-casualty insurance guaranty funds and insurer vulnerability to misfortune," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 23(9), pages 1437-1456, September.
  2. Robert Eisenbeis, 2000. "History of the Journal of Financial Services Research," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 103-107, December.
  3. Armen Hovakimian & Edward J. Kane, 1996. "Risk-Shifting by Federally Insured Commercial Banks," NBER Working Papers 5711, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Soon-Ja Lee & Michael L. Smith, . "Property-Casualty Insurance Guaranty Funds and Insurer Vulnerability to Misfortune," Research in Financial Economics, Ohio State University 9506, Ohio State University.
  5. Schellhorn, Carolin D. & Spellman, Lewis J., 2000. "Bank forbearance: A market-based explanation," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 451-466.
  6. Jeffery W. Gunther & Linda M. Hooks & Kenneth J. Robinson, 1997. "Adverse selection and competing deposit insurance systems in pre-depression Texas," Financial Industry Studies Working Paper, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas 97-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  7. Soon-Jae Lee & Michael L. Smith, . "Property-Casualty Insurance Guaranty Funds And Insurer Vulnerability To Misfortune," Research in Financial Economics, Ohio State University 9616, Ohio State University.
  8. William P. Osterberg & James B. Thomson, 1990. "The effect of subordinated debt and surety bonds on banks' cost of capital and on the value of federal deposit insurance," Working Paper 9012, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.


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