IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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.

Suggested Citation

  • DeAngelo, Harry & Stulz, Rene M., 2013. "Why High Leverage Is Optimal for Banks," Working Paper Series 2013-08, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:ohidic:2013-08

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 2013. "A Model of Shadow Banking," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 68(4), pages 1331-1363, August.
    2. 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.
    3. Jeremy C. Stein, 2012. "Monetary Policy as Financial Stability Regulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 57-95.
    4. Allen, Franklin & Carletti, Elena & Marquez, Robert, 2015. "Deposits and bank capital structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(3), pages 601-619.
    5. Bengt Holmstrom & Jean Tirole, 1998. "Private and Public Supply of Liquidity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(1), pages 1-40, February.
    6. Douglas W. Diamond & Philip H. Dybvig, 2000. "Bank runs, deposit insurance, and liquidity," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 14-23.
    7. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153, June.
    8. 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.
    9. 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 411-411.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-275, May.
    13. Gorton, Gary & Pennacchi, George, 1990. " Financial Intermediaries and Liquidity Creation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(1), pages 49-71, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kok, Christoffer & Gross, Marco & Żochowski, Dawid, 2016. "The impact of bank capital on economic activity - evidence from a mixed-cross-section GVAR model," Working Paper Series 1888, European Central Bank.
    2. Barbara Fidanza & Ottorino Morresi, 2015. "Does the Fama-Franch three-factor model work in the financial industry? Evidence from European bank stocks," Working Papers 47-2015, Macerata University, Department of Studies on Economic Development (DiSSE), revised May 2015.
    3. Hanson, Samuel G. & Shleifer, Andrei & Stein, Jeremy C. & Vishny, Robert W., 2015. "Banks as patient fixed-income investors," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(3), pages 449-469.
    4. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 2014. "How to get banks to take less risk and disclose bad news," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 437-470.
    5. William R. Cline, 2015. "Testing the Modigliani-Miller Theorem of Capital Structure Irrelevance for Banks," Working Paper Series WP15-8, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    6. repec:dau:papers:123456789/13839 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Juliane M. Begenau, 2015. "Capital Requirements, Risk Choice, and Liquidity Provision in a Business Cycle Model," Harvard Business School Working Papers 15-072, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2016.
    8. Tirupam Goel, 2016. "Banking industry dynamics and size-dependent capital regulation," BIS Working Papers 599, Bank for International Settlements.
    9. Conlon, Thomas & Cotter, John, 2014. "Anatomy of a bail-in," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 257-263.
    10. Juliane Begenau, 2015. "Capital Requirements, Risk Choice, and Liquidity Provision in a Business Cycle Model," 2015 Meeting Papers 687, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    11. Randall Kroszner, 2016. "A Review of Bank Funding Cost Differentials," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 49(2), pages 151-174, June.
    12. Paul Pfleiderer, 2014. "Camaleones: el mal uso de modelos teóricos en finanzas y economía," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 16(31), pages 23-30, July-Dece.
    13. Beatty, Anne & Liao, Scott, 2014. "Financial accounting in the banking industry: A review of the empirical literature," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 339-383.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:ohidic:2013-08. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.