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Why High Leverage Is Optimal for Banks

  • DeAngelo, Harry

    (University of Southern CA)

  • Stulz, Rene M.

    (OH State University and ECGI)

Liquidity production is a central role of banks. When there is a market premium for the production of (socially valuable) liquid financial claims and no other departures from the Modigliani and Miller (1958, MM) assumptions, we show that high leverage is optimal for banks. In this model, high leverage is not the result of distortions from agency problems, deposit insurance, or tax motives to borrow. The model can explain (i) why bank leverage increased over the last 150 years or so without invoking any of these distortions, (ii) why high bank leverage per se does not necessarily cause systemic risk, and (iii) why limits on the leverage of regulated banks impede their ability to compete with unregulated shadow banks. MM's leverage irrelevance theorem is inapplicable to banks: Because debt-equity neutrality assigns zero weight to the social value of liquidity, it is an inappropriately equity-biased baseline for assessing whether the high leverage ratios of real-world banks are excessive or socially destructive.

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Paper provided by Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 2013-08.

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Date of creation: May 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:ohidic:2013-08
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Web page: http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/fin/dice/list.htm
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  1. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 2011. "A Model of Shadow Banking," NBER Working Papers 17115, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Diamond, Douglas W & Dybvig, Philip H, 1983. "Bank Runs, Deposit Insurance, and Liquidity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 401-19, June.
  3. Miller, Merton H., 1995. "Do the M & M propositions apply to banks?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 483-489, June.
  4. Franklin Allen & Elena Carletti, 2013. "Deposits and Bank Capital Structure," Economics Working Papers ECO2013/03, European University Institute.
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  6. Jeremy C. Stein, 2012. "Monetary Policy as Financial Stability Regulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 57-95.
  7. Gorton, Gary & Pennacchi, George, 1990. " Financial Intermediaries and Liquidity Creation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(1), pages 49-71, March.
  8. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153, March.
  9. Holmstrom, B & Tirole, J, 1996. "Private and Public Supply of Liquidity," Working papers 96-21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  10. Douglas W. Diamond & Raghuram G. Rajan, 2001. "Liquidity Risk, Liquidity Creation, and Financial Fragility: A Theory of Banking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 287-327, April.
  11. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
  12. Samuel G. Hanson & Anil K. Kashyap & Jeremy C. Stein, 2011. "A Macroprudential Approach to Financial Regulation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
  13. Arvind Krishnamurthy & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2012. "The Aggregate Demand for Treasury Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(2), pages 233 - 267.
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