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A Model of Optimal Government Bailouts

  • Bernardo, Antonio
  • Talley, Eric
  • Welch, Ivo

We analyze incentive-efficient government bailouts within a canonical model of intra-firm moral hazard. Bailouts exacerbate the moral hazard of firms and managers in two ways. First, they make them less averse to failing. Second, the taxes to fund bailouts dampen their incentives. Nevertheless, if third-party externalities from keeping the firm alive are strong, bailouts can improve welfare. Our model suggests that governments should use bailouts sparingly, where social externalities are large and subsidies small; eliminate incumbent owners and managers to improve a priori incentives; and finance bailouts through redistributive taxes on productive firms instead of forcing recipients to repay in the future.

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Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt8wv4p90c.

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Date of creation: 03 Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt8wv4p90c
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  1. Douglas W. Diamond & Raghuram G. Rajan, 2003. "Liquidity Shortages and Banking Crises," NBER Working Papers 10071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gary Gorton & Lixin Huang, 2002. "Liquidity, Efficiency and Bank Bailouts," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 02-33, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. Yuk-Shee Chan & Stuart I. Greenbaum & Anjan V. Thakor, 2004. "Is Fairly Priced Deposit Insurance Possible?," Finance 0411018, EconWPA.
  4. Tirole, Jean, 1994. "The Internal Organization of Government," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(1), pages 1-29, January.
  5. Philippe Aghion, Patrick Bolton & Steven Fries, 1999. "Optimal Design of Bank Bailouts: The Case of Transition Economies," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 155(1), pages 51-, March.
  6. Thomas Philippon & Vasiliki Skreta, 2012. "Optimal Interventions in Markets with Adverse Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 1-28, February.
  7. Calomiris, Charles W., 1999. "Building an incentive-compatible safety net," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(10), pages 1499-1519, October.
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