Special Purpose Vehicles and Securitization
In: The Risks of Financial Institutions
This paper analyzes securitization and more generally “special purpose vehicles” (SPVs), which are now pervasive in corporate finance. The first part of the paper provides an overview of the institutional features of SPVs and securitization. The second part provides a model to analyze the motivations for using SPVs and the conditions under which SPVs are sustainable. The authors argue that a key source of value to using SPVs is that they help reduce bankruptcy costs. Off-balance sheet financing involves transferring assets to SPVs, which reduces the amount of assets that are subject to bankruptcy costs, since SPVs are carefully designed to avoid bankruptcy. Off-balance sheet financing is most advantageous for sponsoring firms that are risky or face large bankruptcy costs. SPVs become sustainable in a repeated SPV game, because firms can implicitly “commit” to subsidize or “bail out” their SPVs when the SPV would otherwise not honor its debt commitments, despite legal and accounting restrictions to the contrary. The third part of the paper tests two key implications of the model using unique data on credit card securitizations. First, riskier firms should securitize more, ceteris paribus. Second, since investors know that SPV sponsors can bail out their SPVs if there is a need, in pricing the debt of the SPV investors will care about the risk of the sponsor defaulting, above and beyond the risk of the SPVs assets. The authors find evidence consistent with these implications. ; Also issued as Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper No. 05-13
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