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The use of debt and equity in optimal financial contracts

  • John H. Boyd
  • Bruce D. Smith

We consider an environment in which risk-neutral firms must obtain external finance. They have access to two kinds of linear, stochastic investment opportunities. For one, return realizations are costlessly observed by all agents. For the other, return realizations are costlessly observed only by the investing firm; however, they can be (privately) observed by outsiders who bear a fixed verification cost. Thus, the second investment opportunity is subject to a standard costly state verification (CSV) problem of the type considered by Townsend (1979), Gale and Hellwig (1985), or Williamson (1986, 1987). ; We examine the optimal allocations of investment between the two kinds of projects, as well as the optimal contract used to finance it. We show that the optimal contractual outcome can be supported by having firms issue appropriate (and determinate) quantities of debt and equity securities to outside investors. ; The optimal debt-equity ratio necessarily depends (in part) on the firm's asset structure. Investments in projects subject to CSV problems are associated (in a sense to be made precise) with the use of debt - as might be expected from the existing CSV literature. Investments in projects with publicly observable returns are associated with the use of external equity. ; We examine in detail the relationship between the optimal asset and liability structure of the firm. We also describe conditions under which an increase in the cost of state verification shifts the composition of investment towards projects with observable returns, and reduces the optimal debt-equity ratio. Interestingly, the optimal debt-equity ratio is also shown to depend on factors that are irrelevant to asset allocations. ; Finally, a large part of the interest in CSV environments has been due to the fact that they may result in equilibrium credit rationing. Our analysis has strong implications for the possibility of equilibrium credit rationing in more general CSV models.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Working Papers with number 537.

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Date of creation: 1996
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Financial Intermediation (Vol. 8, No. 4, October 1999, pp. 270-316)
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:537
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  1. Smith, Bruce D. & Wang, Cheng, 1998. "Repeated insurance relationships in a costly state verification model: With an application to deposit insurance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 207-240, July.
  2. repec:oup:qjecon:v:102:y:1987:i:1:p:135-45 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Besanko, David & Thakor, Anjan V, 1987. "Collateral and Rationing: Sorting Equilibria in Monopolistic and Competitive Credit Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 28(3), pages 671-89, October.
  4. Boyd, John H. & Prescott, Edward C., 1986. "Financial intermediary-coalitions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 211-232, April.
  5. Boyd, John H. & Smith, Bruce D., 1997. "Capital Market Imperfections, International Credit Markets, and Nonconvergence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 335-364, April.
  6. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark, 1989. "Agency Costs, Net Worth, and Business Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 14-31, March.
  7. Levine, Ross, 1991. " Stock Markets, Growth, and Tax Policy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(4), pages 1445-65, September.
  8. repec:oup:restud:v:51:y:1984:i:3:p:393-414 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Boyd, J.h. & Smith, B.D., 1991. "The Equilibrium Allocation of Investment Capital in the Presence of Adverse Selection and Costly State Verification," RCER Working Papers 289, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  10. Arnoud W A Boot & Anjan V Thakor, 1992. "Security Design," CEPR Financial Markets Paper 0020, European Science Foundation Network in Financial Markets, c/o C.E.P.R, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ..
  11. Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1990. "Performance Pay and Top-Management Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(2), pages 225-64, April.
  12. Stephen D. Williamson, 1984. "Costly Monitoring, Financial Intermediation, and Equilibrium Credit Rationing," Working Papers 583, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  13. Boyd, John & Smith, Bruce, 1996. "The Coevolution of the Real and Financial Sectors in the Growth Process," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(2), pages 371-96, May.
  14. Robert M. Townsend, 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Staff Report 45, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. repec:oup:restud:v:58:y:1991:i:2:p:195-209 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. John H. Boyd & Bruce D. Smith, 1995. "The evolution of debt and equity markets in economic development," Working Papers 542, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  17. Seward, James K, 1990. " Corporate Financial Policy and the Theory of Financial Intermediation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(2), pages 351-77, June.
  18. repec:oup:restud:v:52:y:1985:i:4:p:647-63 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Fluck, Zsuzsanna, 1998. "Optimal Financial Contracting: Debt versus Outside Equity," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 11(2), pages 383-418.
  20. Boyd, John H & Smith, Bruce D, 1994. "How Good Are Standard Debt Contracts? Stochastic versus Nonstochastic Monitoring in a Costly State Verification Environment," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67(4), pages 539-61, October.
  21. Mikkelson, Wayne H. & Partch, M. Megan & Shah, Kshitij, 1997. "Ownership and operating performance of companies that go public," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 281-307, June.
  22. Boyd, John H. & Smith, Bruce D., 1992. "Intermediation and the equilibrium allocation of investment capital : Implications for economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 409-432, December.
  23. Bruce D. Smith & John H. Boyd, 1998. "Capital market imperfections in a monetary growth model," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 241-273.
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