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Bank Capital and Portfolio Management: The 1930s "Capital Crunch" and the Scramble to Shed Risk

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  • Charles W. Calomiris

    (Columbia University, American Enterprise Institute, and National Bureau of Economic Research)

  • Berry Wilson

    (Pace University)

Abstract

We model the trade-off between low-asset risk and low leverage to satisfy preferences for low-risk deposits and apply it to interwar New York City banks. During the 1920s, profitable lending and low costs of raising capital produced increased bank asset risk and increased capital, with no deposit risk change. Differences in the costs of raising equity explain differences in asset risk and capital ratios. In the 1930s, rising deposit default risk led to deposit withdrawals. In response, banks increased riskless assets and cut dividends. Banks with high default risk or high costs of raising equity contracted dividends the most.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles W. Calomiris & Berry Wilson, 2004. "Bank Capital and Portfolio Management: The 1930s "Capital Crunch" and the Scramble to Shed Risk," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(3), pages 421-456, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jnlbus:v:77:y:2004:i:3:p:421-456
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    1. Geanakoplos, John, 1994. "Common knowledge," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications,in: R.J. Aumann & S. Hart (ed.), Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 40, pages 1437-1496 Elsevier.
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