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Bank Capital and Portfolio Management: The 1930's Capital Crunch and Scramble to Shed Risk

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  • Charles W. Calormiris
  • Berry Wilson

Abstract

Recent models of banking under asymmetric information argue that depositors penalize banks that offer high-risk deposits. Focusing on New York City banks in the 1920's and 1930's, this study examines how banks manage risk during normal times and in response to severe shocks. We develop and apply a simple framework that identifies the tradeoffs among alternative means of satisfying depositors' preferences for low-risk deposits (i.e. low asset risk versus high capital). During the 1920's profitable lending opportunities and low costs of raising capital prompted banks to increase their asset risk, while increasing capital to maintain low default risks on deposits. Cross-sectional differences in the cost of raising equity explain differences in banks' choices of asset risk and capital ratios. In the wake of the loan losses produced by the Depression, high default risk was penalized with deposit withdrawals. To reduce deposit risk, banks increased their riskless assets and cut dividends, but avoided costly equity issues. Banks with high default risk or with high costs of raising equity contracted dividends the most during the 1930's.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6649.

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Date of creation: Jul 1998
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Publication status: published as Charles W. Calomiris & Berry Wilson, 2004. "Bank Capital and Portfolio Management: The 1930s "Capital Crunch" and the Scramble to Shed Risk," Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(3), pages 421-456, July.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6649

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Cited by:
  1. ATTAR, Andrea & CAMPIONI, Eloisa, . "Costly state verification and debt contracts: a critical resume," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1712, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  2. ATTAR, Andréa, 2003. "Financial contracting along the business cycle," CORE Discussion Papers 2003069, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  3. Edward J. Kane & Asli Demirguc-Kunt, 2001. "Deposit Insurance Around the Globe: Where Does it Work?," NBER Working Papers 8493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Goetz von Peter, 2004. "Asset prices and banking distress: a macroeconomic approach," BIS Working Papers 167, Bank for International Settlements.
  5. Tasca, Paolo & Battiston, Stefano, 2013. "Market Procyclicality and Systemic Risk," MPRA Paper 45156, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2013.
  6. María Soledad Martínez-Peria & Sergio Schmukler, 2002. "Do Depositors Punish Banks for Bad Behavior? Market Discipline, Deposit Insurance, and Banking Crises," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Leonardo Hernández & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (S (ed.), Banking, Financial Integration, and International Crises, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 5, pages 143-174 Central Bank of Chile.
  7. Gersbach, Hans, 2013. "Bank capital and the optimal capital structure of an economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 241-255.
  8. Elijah Brewer, III & William E. Jackson, III & James T. Moser, 2001. "The value of using interest rate derivatives to manage risk of U.S. banking organizations," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q III, pages 49-66.
  9. Feltenstein, Andrew & Rochon, Céline & Shamloo, Maral, 2010. "High growth and low consumption in East Asia: How to improve welfare while avoiding financial failures," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 25-36, January.

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