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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

Firms' inability to commit to future funding choices has profound consequences for capital structure dynamics. With debt in place, shareholders pervasively resist leverage reductions no matter how much such reductions may enhance firm value. Shareholders would instead choose to increase leverage even if debt levels are already high and new debt must be junior to existing debt. These asymmetric forces in leverage adjustments, which we call the leverage ratchet effect, cause equilibrium leverage outcomes to be history-dependent. When forced to reduce leverage, shareholders are biased toward selling assets relative to potentially more efficient alternatives such as pure recapitalizations.

Suggested Citation

  • Admati, Anat R. & DeMarzo, Peter M. & Hellwig, Martin F. & Pfleiderer, Paul, 2017. "The Leverage Ratchet Effect," Research Papers repec:ecl:stabus:3029, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:repec:ecl:stabus:3029
    as

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    Cited by:

    1. Bahaj, Saleem & Bridges, Jonathan & Malherbe, Frederic & O’Neill, Cian, 2016. "What determines how banks respond to changes in capital requirements?," Bank of England working papers 593, Bank of England.
    2. Heider, Florian & Ljungqvist, Alexander, 2015. "As certain as debt and taxes: Estimating the tax sensitivity of leverage from state tax changes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(3), pages 684-712.
    3. Claudio Albanese & Simone Caenazzo & St'ephane Cr'epey, 2016. "Capital Valuation Adjustment and Funding Valuation Adjustment," Papers 1603.03012, arXiv.org.
    4. Perri, Fabrizio & Stefanidis, Georgios, 2017. "Capital Requirements and Bailouts," Staff Report 554, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    5. Hugonnier, Julien & Malamud, Semyon & Morellec, Erwan, 2015. "Credit market frictions and capital structure dynamics," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 1130-1158.
    6. Lubberink, Martien, 2014. "Are banks’ below-par own debt repurchases a cause for prudential concern?," MPRA Paper 59475, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Gormley, Todd A. & Matsa, David A., 2016. "Playing it safe? Managerial preferences, risk, and agency conflicts," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(3), pages 431-455.
    8. Lucy M. Goodhart, 2015. "Brave New World? Macro-prudential policy and the new political economy of the federal reserve," Review of International Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(2), pages 280-310, April.
    9. Claudio Albanese & Simone Caenazzo & Stéphane Crépey, 2016. "Capital Valuation Adjustment and Funding Valuation Adjustment," Working Papers hal-01285363, HAL.

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