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Rating Banks: Risk and Uncertainty in an Opaque Industry

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  • Donald P. Morgan

Abstract

The pattern of disagreement between bond raters suggests that banks and insurance firms are inherently more opaque than other types of firms. Moody's and S&P split more often over these financial intermediaries, and the splits are more lopsided, as theory here predicts. Uncertainty over the banks stems from certain assets, loans and trading assets in particular, the risks of which are hard to observe or easy to change. Banks' high leverage, which invites agency problems, compounds the uncertainty over their assets. These findings bear on both the existence and reform of bank regulation. (JEL G20, G21, G28)

Suggested Citation

  • Donald P. Morgan, 2002. "Rating Banks: Risk and Uncertainty in an Opaque Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 874-888, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:92:y:2002:i:4:p:874-888 Note: DOI: 10.1257/00028280260344506
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 323-329.
    2. Flannery, Mark J. & Kwan, Simon H. & Nimalendran, M., 2004. "Market evidence on the opaqueness of banking firms' assets," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 419-460, March.
    3. Richard Cantor & Frank Packer, 1994. "The credit rating industry," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sum, pages 1-26.
    4. Stewart C. Myers & Raghuram G. Rajan, 1998. "The Paradox of Liquidity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, pages 733-771.
    5. Douglas W. Diamond, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414.
    6. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    7. O'Hara, Maureen & Shaw, Wayne, 1990. " Deposit Insurance and Wealth Effects: The Value of Being "Too Big to Fail."," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(5), pages 1587-1600, December.
    8. Krasa, Stefan & Villamil, Anne P, 1992. "A Theory of Optimal Bank Size," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(4), pages 725-749, October.
    9. Peter C. Reiss, 1989. "Economic and Financial Determinants of Oil and Gas Exploration Activity," NBER Working Papers 3077, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Demsetz, Rebecca S & Strahan, Philip E, 1997. "Diversification, Size, and Risk at Bank Holding Companies," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(3), pages 300-313, August.
    11. Bomberger, William A, 1996. "Disagreement as a Measure of Uncertainty," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(3), pages 381-392, August.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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