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Why High Leverage Is Optimal for Banks

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  • DeAngelo, Harry

    (Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California and OH State University)

  • Stulz, Rene M.

    (Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California and OH State University)

Abstract

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 Papers 13-20, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:upafin:13-20
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    1. Anat R. Admati & Peter M. Demarzo & Martin F. Hellwig & Paul Pfleiderer, 2018. "The Leverage Ratchet Effect," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 73(1), pages 145-198, February.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Erica Jiang & Gregor Matvos & Tomasz Piskorski & Amit Seru, 2020. "Banking without Deposits: Evidence from Shadow Bank Call Reports," NBER Working Papers 26903, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Daly, Kevin & Batten, Jonathan A. & Mishra, Anil V. & Choudhury, Tonmoy, 2019. "Contagion risk in global banking sector," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    7. William Gornall & Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2013. "Financing as a Supply Chain: The Capital Structure of Banks and Borrowers," NBER Working Papers 19633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Oana Toader, 2015. "Estimating the impact of higher capital requirements on the cost of equity: an empirical study of European banks," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 411-436, September.
    9. 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.
    10. Sofiane Aboura & Emmanuel Lépinette, 2015. "Do banks satisfy the Modigliani-Miller theorem?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 35(2), pages 924-935.
    11. 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.
    12. repec:dau:papers:123456789/13839 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. 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.
    14. Tirupam Goel, 2016. "Banking industry dynamics and size-dependent capital regulation," BIS Working Papers 599, Bank for International Settlements.
    15. Malcolm Baker & Jeffrey Wurgler, 2015. "Do Strict Capital Requirements Raise the Cost of Capital? Bank Regulation, Capital Structure, and the Low-Risk Anomaly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 315-320, May.
    16. Conlon, Thomas & Cotter, John, 2014. "Anatomy of a bail-in," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 257-263.
    17. Flore, Raphael, 2015. "Causes of Shadow Banking - Two Regimes of Credit Risk Transformation and its Regulation," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113178, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    18. Lubberink, Martien, 2020. "Max Headroom: Discretionary Capital Buffers and Bank Risk," MPRA Paper 100445, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Juliane Begenau, 2015. "Capital Requirements, Risk Choice, and Liquidity Provision in a Business Cycle Model," 2015 Meeting Papers 687, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    20. 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.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. Tetiana Davydiuk, 2017. "Dynamic Bank Capital Requirements," 2017 Meeting Papers 1328, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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    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

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