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Safety monitoring, capital structure, and "financial responsibility"


  • Feess, Eberhard
  • Hege, Ulrich


Firms will exert too little preventive care if damages are likely to exceed their equity. This is particularly important for environmental and product liability and motivates the current discussion about extending liability to creditors. We propose a model where the firm can be financed by equity, bank debt or publicly traded debt. There is a moral hazard problem about the choice of care that can be mitigated through stochastic monitoring of its safety standards. We show that the optimal allocation can always be implemented by a liability regime of "financial responsibility", that is mandatory liability coverage that can be fulfilled either by an insurer or by a lender. We find that the first best can only be achieved if the defendants are fully liable. This result is in contrast to related models which find liability below the level of harm optimal, and we show that the difference is due to the inclusion of safety monitoring. Financial responsibility is strictly superior to lender liability alone or strict liability without extended liability, but their relative ranking may vary.
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  • Feess, Eberhard & Hege, Ulrich, 2003. "Safety monitoring, capital structure, and "financial responsibility"," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 323-339, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:23:y:2003:i:3:p:323-339

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Hutchinson, Emma & van 't Veld, Klaas, 2005. "Extended liability for environmental accidents: what you see is what you get," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 157-173, January.
    2. Marcel Boyer & Donatella Porrini, 2007. "Sharing Liability Between Banks and Firms: The Case of Industrial Safety Risk," CIRANO Working Papers 2007s-04, CIRANO.
    3. Eberhard Feess & Gerd Muehlheusser & Ansgar Wohlschlegel, 2009. "Environmental liability under uncertain causation," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 28(2), pages 133-148, October.
    4. Henry van Egteren & R. Smith & Dean McAfee, 2004. "Harmonization of Environmental Regulations When Firms are Judgment Proof," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 139-164, March.
    5. Bidénam Kambia-Chopin, 2010. "Environmental risks, the judgment-proof problem and financial responsibility," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 77-87, October.
    6. Juan José Ganuza & Fernando Gómez, 2003. "Optimal negligence rule under limited liability," Economics Working Papers 759, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2004.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law


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