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Environmental Risks and Bank Liability

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  • Marcel Boyer
  • Jean-Jacques Laffont

Abstract

The 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act in the US has extended the tools of the Environmental Protection Agency to recover cleanup costs caused by pollution damages from the liable parties. In particular, the banks who finance the firms causing environmental damages may be considered liable. In various court cases, banks have been found liable, while they have been exempted in others. We develop a multipricipal-agent model in which the insurance sector may insure the firm for the pollution risk and the bank may lend money for investment. Under complete information of the bank about the firm's activities, the limited liability of the firm induces excessive investment and sufficient care but full liability of the bank creates the appropriate internalization of the environmental risk. This rationalization of the law must be qualified because in general the bank suffers from agency problems (adverse selection and moral hazard) with respect to the firm. In the adverse selection case, full liability of the bank leads to underinvestment. Partial liability is better but may fail to implement the optimal second best allocation. In the case of moral hazard, full responsibility is killing the project too often while still leading to low care too often. Partial responsibility may achieve the second best optimal allocation but in some cases the level of responsibility necessary to induce the proper level of care is too high for the project to be financed by the bank. Le Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act [CRECLA] de 1980 aux États-Unis a donné à l'Agence de protection de l'environnement des pouvoirs de recouvrement des coûts de décontamination auprès des parties responsables de la pollution. Les banques des entreprises concernées peuvent, en particulier, être tenues responsables des dommages et elles l'ont effectivement été dans certains cas. Nous proposons ici un modèle principal-agent avec un secteur assurance et un secteur bancaire. Dans le cas où la banque possède une information complète des activités de l'entreprise, nous montrons que les règles de responsabilité limitée mènent à des niveaux d'investissement et de négligence trop élevés que peut par ailleurs corriger adéquatement la pleine responsabilisation de la banque. Cette rationalisation de CERCLA doit être réexaminée car de manière générale, les banques font face à des problèmes d'agence [sélection adverse et risque moral] dans leurs relations avec les entreprises. Dans le cas de la sélection adverse, la pleine responsabilité de la banque mènerait à un sous-investissement dans les entreprises concernées. La responsabilité partielle est préférable0501s peut s'avérer insuffisante pour implémenter la solution optimale de second rang. Dans le cas du risque moral, la pleine responsabilité de la banque entraînerait trop fréquemment le retrait de la banque et donc de la non-réalisation du projet tout en n'assurant pas assez souvent le bon niveau d'effort dans la prévention d'accident environnemental. La responsabilité partielle pourrait dans certains cas implémenter la solution optimale de second rang.0501s le niveau de responsabilité partielle nécessaire pour induire le bon niveau d'effort peut être trop élevé pour que le financement du projet soit profitable pour la banque.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcel Boyer & Jean-Jacques Laffont, 1994. "Environmental Risks and Bank Liability," CIRANO Working Papers 94s-22, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:94s-22
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    File URL: http://www.cirano.qc.ca/files/publications/94s-22.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Evan F. Koenig, 1985. "Indirect Methods for Regulating Externalities Under Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 479-493.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Environmental risks; Pollution; Lender's responsability; Bank; Risques environnementaux ; Pollution ; Responsabilité du prêteur ; Banque;

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation

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