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The Strategic Underreporting of Bank Risk


  • Taylor A. Begley
  • Amiyatosh Purnanandam
  • Kuncheng Zheng


We show that banks significantly underreport the risk in their trading book when they have lower equity capital. Specifically, a decrease in a bank’s equity capital results in substantially more violations of its self-reported risk levels in the following quarter. Underreporting is especially frequent during the critical periods of high systemic risk and for banks with larger trading operations. We exploit a discontinuity in the expected benefit of underreporting present in Basel regulations to provide further support for a causal link between capital-saving incentives and underreporting. Overall, we show that banks’ self-reported risk measures become least informative precisely when they matter the most. Received April 30, 2015; editorial decision October, 27 2016 by Editor Itay Goldstein.

Suggested Citation

  • Taylor A. Begley & Amiyatosh Purnanandam & Kuncheng Zheng, 2017. "The Strategic Underreporting of Bank Risk," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 30(10), pages 3376-3415.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:rfinst:v:30:y:2017:i:10:p:3376-3415.

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    Cited by:

    1. Kok, Christoffer & Müller, Carola & Ongena, Steven & Pancaro, Cosimo, 2021. "The disciplining effect of supervisory scrutiny in the EU-wide stress test," Working Paper Series 2551, European Central Bank.
    2. Nakashima, Kiyotaka & Ogawa, Toshiaki, 2020. "The Impacts of Strengthening Regulatory Surveillance on Bank Behavior: A Dynamic Analysis from Incomplete to Complete Enforcement of Capital Regulation in Microprudential Policy," MPRA Paper 99938, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Abbassi, Puriya & Schmidt, Michael, 2018. "A comprehensive view on risk reporting: Evidence from supervisory data," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 74-85.
    4. Ho, Kin-Yip & Shi, Yanlin & Zhang, Zhaoyong, 2020. "News and return volatility of Chinese bank stocks," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 1095-1105.
    5. Balachandran, Balasingham & Williams, Barry, 2018. "Effective governance, financial markets, financial institutions & crises," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 1-15.
    6. Liu, Cai, 2021. "The IRB model, bank regulatory arbitrage, and the Eurozone crisis," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 116(C).
    7. Mariassunta Giannetti & José María Liberti & Jason Sturgess, 2017. "Information Sharing and Rating Manipulation," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 30(9), pages 3269-3304.
    8. Laura Blattner & Luisa Farinha & Francisca Rebelo, 2017. "When Losses Turn Into Loans: The Cost of Undercapitalized Banks," 2017 Papers pbl215, Job Market Papers.
    9. Jean-Edouard Colliard, 2019. "Strategic Selection of Risk Models and Bank Capital Regulation," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 67(6), pages 2591-2606, June.
    10. Leitner, Yaron & Yilmaz, Bilge, 2019. "Regulating a model," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(2), pages 251-268.
    11. Lim, Ivan & Hagendorff, Jens & Armitage, Seth, 2019. "Is the fox guarding the henhouse? Bankers in the Federal Reserve, bank leverage and risk-shifting," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 478-504.
    12. Arnould, Guillaume & Guin, Benjamin & Ongena, Steven & Siciliani, Paolo, 2020. "(When) do banks react to anticipated capital reliefs?," Bank of England working papers 889, Bank of England.
    13. Enzo Scannella & Salvatore Polizzi, 2021. "How to measure bank credit risk disclosure? Testing a new methodological approach based on the content analysis framework," Journal of Banking Regulation, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 22(1), pages 73-95, March.
    14. Calza, Alessandro & Hey, Julius-Benjamin & Parrini, Alessandro & Sauer, Stephan, 2021. "Corporate loans, banks’ internal risk estimates and central bank collateral: evidence from the euro area," Working Paper Series 2579, European Central Bank.
    15. Rosario Roca & Francesco Potente & Luca Giulio Ciavoliello & Alessandro Conciarelli & Giovanni Diprizio & Lanfranco Lodi & Roberto Mosca & Tommaso Perez & Jacopo Raponi & Emiliano Sabatini & Antonio S, 2017. "Risks and challenges of complex financial isntruments: an analysis of SSM banks," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 417, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    16. Goel, Tirupam & Lewrick, Ulf & Tarashev, Nikola, 2020. "Bank capital allocation under multiple constraints," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 44(C).
    17. Janet Gao & Yeejin Jang, 0. "What Drives Global Lending Syndication? Effects of Cross-Country Capital Regulation Gaps," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 25(2), pages 519-559.
    18. Behn, Markus Wilhelm & Haselmann, Rainer & Vig, Vikrant, 2014. "The limits of model-based regulation," IMFS Working Paper Series 82, Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute for Monetary and Financial Stability (IMFS).
    19. João Granja & Christian Leuz & Raghuram Rajan, 2018. "Going the Extra Mile: Distant Lending and Credit Cycles," NBER Working Papers 25196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Sophia Döme & Stefan Kerbl, 2017. "Comparability of Basel risk weights in the EU banking sector," Financial Stability Report, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 34, pages 68-89.
    21. Hanley, Kathleen W. & Jagolinzer, Alan D. & Nikolova, Stanislava, 2018. "Strategic estimation of asset fair values," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 25-45.
    22. Haselmann, Rainer & Tröger, Tobias, 2021. "What are the main differences between the practice of supervising large banks in the UK and in the euro area, and what are the main risks of regulatory divergence?," SAFE White Paper Series 86, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
    23. Irina Andrievskaya & Mikhail Raschupkin, 2015. "Is it Worth Being Transparent? Evidence from the Russian Banking System," HSE Working papers WP BRP 51/FE/2015, National Research University Higher School of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • 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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