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Bankruptcy Law and the Cost of Credit: The Impact of Cramdown on Mortgage Interest Rates

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  • Goodman, Joshua

    (Harvard University)

  • Levitin, Adam

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Recent proposals to address housing market troubles through principal modification raise the possibility that such policies could increase the cost of credit in the mortgage market. We explore this using historical variation in federal judicial rulings regarding whether Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers could reduce the principal owed on a home loan to the home's market value. The practice, known as cramdown, was definitively prohibited by the Supreme Court in 1993. We find evidence that home loans closed during the time when cramdown was allowed had interest rates 10-20 basis points higher than loans closed in the same state when cramdown was not allowed, which translates to a roughly 1-2 percent increase in monthly payments. Consistent with the theory that lenders are pricing in the risk of principal modification, interest rate increases are higher for the riskiest borrowers and zero for the least risky, as well as higher in states where Chapter 13 filing is more common.

Suggested Citation

  • Goodman, Joshua & Levitin, Adam, 2012. "Bankruptcy Law and the Cost of Credit: The Impact of Cramdown on Mortgage Interest Rates," Working Paper Series rwp12-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp12-037
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Reint Gropp & John Karl Scholz & Michelle J. White, 1997. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 217-251.
    2. Christopher Mayer & Karen Pence & Shane M. Sherlund, 2009. "The Rise in Mortgage Defaults," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 27-50, Winter.
    3. Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. & Thomson, James B., 2010. "Stripdowns and bankruptcy: lessons from agricultural bankruptcy reform," Economic Commentary, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Aug.
    4. Jeremy Berkowitz & Michelle J. White, 2004. "Bankruptcy and Small Firms' Access to Credit," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(1), pages 69-84, Spring.
    5. Karl E. Case & John M. Quigley & Robert J. Shiller, 2011. "Wealth Effects Revisited 1978-2009," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1784, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    6. Lin, Emily Y. & White, Michelle J., 2001. "Bankruptcy and the Market for Mortgage and Home Improvement Loans," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 138-162, July.
    7. Karen M. Pence, 2006. "Foreclosing on Opportunity: State Laws and Mortgage Credit," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 177-182, February.
    8. Berkowitz, Jeremy & Hynes, Richard, 1999. "Bankruptcy Exemptions and the Market for Mortgage Loans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 809-830, October.
    9. Chomsisengphet, Souphala & Elul, Ronel, 2006. "Bankruptcy exemptions, credit history, and the mortgage market," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 171-188, January.
    10. Michelle J. White, 2011. "Corporate and Personal Bankruptcy Law," NBER Working Papers 17237, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wenli Li & Ishani Tewari & Michelle J. White, 2014. "Using Bankruptcy to Reduce Foreclosures: Does Strip-down of Mortgages Affect the Supply of Mortgage Credit?," NBER Working Papers 19952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Dagher, Jihad & Sun, Yangfan, 2016. "Borrower protection and the supply of credit: Evidence from foreclosure laws," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 195-209.
    3. Chakrabarti, Rajashri & Pattison, Nathaniel, 2016. "Auto credit and the 2005 bankruptcy reform: the impact of eliminating cramdowns," Staff Reports 797, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    4. Wenli Li & Ishani Tewari & Michelle White, 2014. "Using Bankruptcy to Reduce Foreclosures," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(3), pages 31-38, October.
    5. Mandai, Yu, and Nakabayashi, Masaki, 2017. "Stabilize the Peasant Economy: Governance of Foreclosure by the Shogunate," ISS Discussion Paper Series (series F) f187, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, revised 28 Nov 2017.

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