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The Leverage Ratchet Effect

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  • Admati, Anat R.

    (Stanford University)

  • DeMarzo, Peter M.

    (Stanford University)

  • Hellwig, Martin F.

    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods)

  • Pfleiderer, Paul

    (Stanford University)

Abstract

Shareholder-creditor conflicts can create leverage ratchet effects, resulting in inefficient capital structures. Once debt is in place, shareholders may inefficiently increase leverage but avoid reducing it no matter how beneficial leverage reduction might be to total firm value. We present conditions for an irrelevance result under which shareholders view asset sales, pure recapitalization and asset expansion with new equity as equally undesirable. We then analyze how seniority, asset heterogeneity, and asymmetric information affect shareholders' choice of leverage-reduction method. Our results are particularly relevant to banking and highlight the benefit and importance of capital regulation to constrain inefficient excessive borrowing.

Suggested Citation

  • Admati, Anat R. & DeMarzo, Peter M. & Hellwig, Martin F. & Pfleiderer, Paul, 2013. "The Leverage Ratchet Effect," Research Papers 3029, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:3029
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    File URL: http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/working-papers/leverage-ratchet-effect
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    1. Sudipto Bhattacharya & Kjell G. Nyborg, 2013. "Bank Bailout Menus," Review of Corporate Finance Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(1), pages 29-61.
    2. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicolás S., 1945-, 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Working papers 1523-84., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    3. 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.
    4. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153.
    5. Kenneth R. French & Martin N. Baily & John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane & Douglas W. Diamond & Darrell Duffie & Anil K Kashyap & Frederic S. Mishkin & Raghuram G. Rajan & David S. Scharfstein & Robe, 2010. "The Squam Lake Report: Fixing the Financial System," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9261.
    6. Ilya A. Strebulaev & Baozhong Yang, 2012. "The Mystery of Zero-Leverage Firms," NBER Working Papers 17946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Florian Heider & Alexander Ljungqvist, 2012. "As Certain as Debt and Taxes: Estimating the Tax Sensitivity of Leverage from Exogenous State Tax Changes," NBER Working Papers 18263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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