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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. 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.
  2. Timothy J. Kehoe & David K. Levine, 1993. "Debt-Constrained Asset Markets," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(4), pages 865-888.
  3. José M. Marín & Rohit Rahi, 1996. "Information revelation and market incompleteness," Economics Working Papers 145, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. 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.
  5. Douglas W. Diamond, 1998. "Reputation Acquisition in Debt Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 602, David K. Levine.
  6. Simeon Djankov & Caralee McLiesh & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "Private Credit in 129 Countries," NBER Working Papers 11078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Mailath,G.J. & Samuelson,L., 1998. "Who wants a good reputation?," Working papers 19, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  8. Brown, Martin & Jappelli, Tullio & Pagano, Marco, 2008. "Information Sharing and Credit: Firm-Level Evidence from Transition Countries," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Zurich 2008 3, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
  9. Aghion, Philippe & Hermalin, Benjamin, 1990. "Legal Restrictions on Private Contracts Can Enhance Efficiency," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 381-409, Fall.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. A. Jorge Padilla & Marco Pagano, 1996. "Sharing Default Information as a Borrower Discipline Device," Papers 0073, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Dan Bernhardt & Ed Nosal, 2003. "Nearsighted justice," Working Paper 0304, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  18. Jappelli, Tullio & Pagano, Marco, 1991. "Information Sharing in Credit Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 579, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Jacques Crémer, 1995. "Arm's Length Relationships," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(2), pages 275-295.
  20. 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.
  21. Tullio Jappelli & Marco Pagano, 2005. "Role and Effects of Credit Information Sharing," CSEF Working Papers 136, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  22. Philip Bond & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2004. "Regulating Exclusion from Financial Markets," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(3), pages 681-707.
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