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Unbounded liabilities, capital reserve requirements and the taxpayer put option


  • Ernst Eberlein
  • Dilip B. Madan


When firms access unbounded liability exposures and are granted limited liability, then an all equity firm holds a call option, whereby it receives a free option to put losses back to the taxpayers. We call this option the taxpayer put, where the strike is the negative of the level of reserve capital at stake in the firm. We contribute by (i) valuing this taxpayer put, and (ii) determining the level for reserve capital without a reference to ratings. Reserve capital levels are designed to mitigate the adverse incentives for unnecessary risk introduced by the taxpayer put at the firm level. In our approach, the level of reserve capital is set to make the aggregate risk of the firm externally acceptable, where the specific form of acceptability employed is positive expectation under a concave distortion of the cash flow distribution. It is observed that, in the presence of the taxpayer put, debt holders may not be relied upon to monitor risk as their interests are partially aligned with equity holders by participating in the taxpayer put. Furthermore, the taxpayer put leads to an equity pricing model associated with a market discipline that punishes perceived cash shortfalls.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernst Eberlein & Dilip B. Madan, 2012. "Unbounded liabilities, capital reserve requirements and the taxpayer put option," Quantitative Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(5), pages 709-724, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:quantf:v:12:y:2012:i:5:p:709-724 DOI: 10.1080/14697688.2011.630324

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Armen Hovakimian & Edward J. Kane & Luc Laeven, 2012. "Tracking Variation in Systemic Risk at US Banks During 1974-2013," NBER Working Papers 18043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Madan, Dilip B. & Schoutens, Wim, 2013. "Systemic risk tradeoffs and option prices," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 222-230.
    4. Caldana, Ruggero & Fusai, Gianluca, 2013. "A general closed-form spread option pricing formula," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 4893-4906.

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