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Bankruptcy: Is it enough to Forgive or must we also Forget?

  • Ronel Elul
  • Piero Gottardi

In many countries, lenders are not permitted to use information about past defaults after a specified period of time has elapsed. We model this provision and determine conditions under which it is optimal.We develop a model in which entrepreneurs must repeatedly seek external funds to finance a sequence of risky projects under conditions of both adverse selection and moral hazard. Forgetting a default typically makes incentives worse, ex-ante, because it reduces the punishment for failure. However, following a default it may be good to forget, because by improving an entrepreneur’s reputation, forgetting increases the incentive to exert effort to preserve this reputation. Our key result is that if (i) borrowers’ incentives are sufficiently strong, (ii) their average quality is not too low, (iii) the output loss from low effort is not too large, and (iv) agents are sufficiently patient, then the optimal law would prescribe some amount of forgetting — that is, it would not permit lenders to fully utilize past information. We also argue that forgetting must be the outcome of a regulatory intervention by the government — no lender would willingly agree to ignore information available to him. Finally, we show that the predictions of our model are consistent with the cross-country relationship between credit bureau reporting regulations and the provision of credit, as well as Musto (2004)’s evidence on the impact of these regulations on individual borrower and lender behavior.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2313.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2313
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  1. Timothy J Kehoe & David K Levine, 1993. "Debt Constrained Asset Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1276, David K. Levine.
  2. Brown, Martin & Jappelli, Tullio & Pagano, Marco, 2008. "Information sharing and credit: Firm-level evidence from transition countries," CFS Working Paper Series 2008/34, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  3. Padilla, A. Jorge & Pagano, Marco, 2000. "Sharing default information as a borrower discipline device," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(10), pages 1951-1980, December.
  4. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1971. "The Private and Social Value of Information and the Reward to Inventive Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(4), pages 561-74, September.
  5. Dan Bernhardt & Ed Nosal, 2004. "Near-sighted Justice," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(6), pages 2655-2684, December.
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  7. Jappelli, Tullio & Pagano, Marco, 1991. "Information Sharing in Credit Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 579, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. David K. Musto, 2004. "What Happens When Information Leaves a Market? Evidence from Postbankruptcy Consumers," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(4), pages 725-748, October.
  9. Mailath,G.J. & Samuelson,L., 1998. "Who wants a good reputation?," Working papers 19, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  10. Jacques Crémer, 1995. "Arm's Length Relationships," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(2), pages 275-295.
  11. José M. Marín & Rohit Rahi, 1996. "Information revelation and market incompleteness," Economics Working Papers 145, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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  13. Martin Brown & Christian Zehnder, 2007. "Credit Reporting, Relationship Banking, and Loan Repayment," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(8), pages 1883-1918, December.
  14. Avery, Robert B. & Bostic, Raphael W. & Samolyk, Katherine A., 1998. "The role of personal wealth in small business finance," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(6-8), pages 1019-1061, August.
  15. Philip Bond & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2004. "Regulating Exclusion from Financial Markets," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(3), pages 681-707.
  16. Ronel Elul & Narayanan Subramanian, 2002. "Forum-Shopping and Personal Bankruptcy," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 21(3), pages 233-255, June.
  17. Simeon Djankov & Caralee McLiesh & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "Private Credit in 129 Countries," NBER Working Papers 11078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Berger, Allen N & Udell, Gregory F, 1995. "Relationship Lending and Lines of Credit in Small Firm Finance," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 68(3), pages 351-81, July.
  19. Berkovitch, Elazar & Israel, Ronen & Zender, Jaime F., 1998. "The Design of Bankruptcy Law: A Case for Management Bias in Bankruptcy Reorganizations," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(04), pages 441-464, December.
  20. Diamond, Douglas W, 1989. "Reputation Acquisition in Debt Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 828-62, August.
  21. Vercammen, James A, 1995. "Credit Bureau Policy and Sustainable Reputation Effects in Credit Markets," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 62(248), pages 461-78, November.
  22. Shleifer, Andrei & Djankov, Simeon & McLiesh, Caralee, 2007. "Private credit in 129 countries?," Scholarly Articles 27867134, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  23. Rafael Rob & Arthur Fishman, 2005. "Is Bigger Better? Customer Base Expansion through Word-of-Mouth Reputation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 1146-1175, October.
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