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Contractual incompleteness, limited liability and asset price bubbles

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  • Dow, James
  • Han, Jungsuk

Abstract

When should we expect bubbles? Can levered intermediaries bid up risky asset prices through asset substitution? We study an economy with financial intermediaries that issue debt and equity to buy risky assets. Asset substitution alone cannot cause bubbles because it is priced into the intermediaries׳ securities. But incomplete contracts and managerial agency problems can make intermediaries take excessive risk to exploit limited liability, bidding up risky asset prices. This destroys welfare through misallocation of resources. We argue that incentives for private monitoring cannot solve this problem. Finally, even without agency problems, debt subsidies will create similar effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Dow, James & Han, Jungsuk, 2015. "Contractual incompleteness, limited liability and asset price bubbles," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(2), pages 383-409.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:116:y:2015:i:2:p:383-409
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jfineco.2015.02.002
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    Keywords

    Leverage; Limited liability; Bubbles; Contractual incompleteness; Asset substitution;

    JEL classification:

    • D53 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Financial Markets
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill

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