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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. Holmstrom, B & Tirole, J, 1996. "Private and Public Supply of Liquidity," Working papers 96-21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Franklin Allen & Elena Carletti & Robert Marquez, 2013. "Deposits and Bank Capital Structure," NBER Chapters, in: New Perspectives on Corporate Capital Structure National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Merton H. Miller & Franco Modigliani, 1961. "Dividend Policy, Growth, and the Valuation of Shares," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34, pages 411.
  4. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 2011. "A model of shadow banking," Economics Working Papers 1283, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2012.
  5. 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.
  6. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153, July.
  7. 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.
  8. Douglas W. Diamond & Raghuram G. Rajan, 1999. "Liquidity Risk, Liquidity Creation and Financial Fragility: A Theory of Banking," NBER Working Papers 7430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. repec:oup:qjecon:v:127:y:2012:i:1:p:57-95 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Gorton, Gary & Pennacchi, George, 1990. " Financial Intermediaries and Liquidity Creation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(1), pages 49-71, March.
  13. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
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