Economics of bankruptcy exemption: Signaling value of collateral, cost of credit and access to credit
We analyze the effect of a bankruptcy law according to which some of the borrower’s assets are exempt from liquidation in the event of default in the context of a competitive credit market characterized either by moral hazard (MH) or by adverse selection (AS). In particular, we study how the level of such exemption affects the role of collateral depending on the dominant source of asymmetric information. Under MH, conditional on the level of exemption, the cost of credit is higher for borrowers who are requested to post collateral. Moreover, conditional on posting collateral, the cost of credit does not change with the level of asset exemption. Differently, in the case of AS, the decision to post collateral results in a lower cost of credit, whenever the equilibrium is separating. Finally, under AS, a higher level of exemption is generally associated with a lower level of credit rationing. Similarly, credit rationing either stays unchanged or goes down with exemption in the case of MH. We exploit cross State variability in the level of asset exemption from liquidation – according to personal bankruptcy US State laws prior to 2005 federal reform – in order to identify the signaling role played by collateral in a sample of american small business taken from the SBFF data.
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