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Is the Market for Mortgage-Backed Securities a Market for Lemons?


  • Chris Downing
  • Dwight Jaffee


This paper models and provides empirical evidence for the quality of assets that are securitized through bankruptcy remote special purpose vehicles (SPVs). The model predicts that assets sold to SPVs will be of lower quality ("lemons") compared to assets that are not sold to SPVs. We find strong empirical support for this prediction using a comprehensive data set of sales of mortgage-backed securities (Freddie Mac Participation Certificates, or PCs) to SPVs over the period 1991 through 2002. Valuation estimates based on a structural two-factor model indicate that PCs sold to SPVs are on average valued $0.39 lower per $100 of face value relative to PCs not so sold. For the four largest coupon groups in our full sample of Freddie Mac PCs, we find a "lemons spread" of 4--6 basis points in terms of yield-to-maturity, and this spread accounts for 13--45% of the overall prepayment spread of these securities. The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for Financial Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Chris Downing & Dwight Jaffee, 2009. "Is the Market for Mortgage-Backed Securities a Market for Lemons?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(7), pages 2257-2294, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:rfinst:v:22:y:2009:i:7:p:2257-2294

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