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Regulatory discretion and banks' pursuit of "safety in similarity"

  • Ryan Stever
  • James A Wilcox
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    We propose that individual banks' reported loan losses and provisions for future loan losses are lower, all else equal (including their own financial statements), when the banking industry is weaker. We further hypothesize that this option of underreporting charge-offs and provisions provides banks with incentives, when the banking industry is weaker, to cluster more, or to seek "safety in similarity." We provide evidence that large, individual U.S. banks indeed tend to report both lower charge-offs and lower provisions for loan losses, after controlling for their other determinants, when the banking industry is weaker. We also show that banks tend to be more clustered, or similar, when the industry is weaker. In addition, individual banks change their risk-taking to make it more similar to that of banking industry averages, and change it faster, when the industry is weaker. At the same time, in contrast to banks, we show that non-bank financial corporations show virtually no tendency to cluster more as their part of the financial sector weakens.

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    Paper provided by Bank for International Settlements in its series BIS Working Papers with number 235.

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    Length: 35 pages
    Date of creation: Aug 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:235
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    1. Acharya, Viral V. & Yorulmazer, Tanju, 2007. "Too many to fail--An analysis of time-inconsistency in bank closure policies," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 1-31, January.
    2. Basu, Sudipta, 1997. "The conservatism principle and the asymmetric timeliness of earnings," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 3-37, December.
    3. Armen Hovakimian & Edward J. Kane, 2000. "Effectiveness of Capital Regulation at U.S. Commercial Banks, 1985 to 1994," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(1), pages 451-468, 02.
    4. Merton, Robert C., 1973. "On the pricing of corporate debt: the risk structure of interest rates," Working papers 684-73., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    5. Pennacchi, George G., 2005. "Risk-based capital standards, deposit insurance, and procyclicality," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 432-465, October.
    6. Ioannidou, V., 2002. "Does Monetary Policy Affect the Central Bank's Role in Bank Supervision?," Discussion Paper 2002-54, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    7. Iftekhar Hasan & Larry D. Wall, 2004. "Determinants of the loan loss allowance: some cross-country comparisons," Finance 0404018, EconWPA.
    8. Ahmed, Anwer S. & Takeda, Carolyn & Thomas, Shawn, 1999. "Bank loan loss provisions: a reexamination of capital management, earnings management and signaling effects," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-25, November.
    9. Linda Allen & Anthony Saunders, 2004. "Incorporating Systemic Influences Into Risk Measurements: A Survey of the Literature," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 161-191, October.
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