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Agency problems and risk taking at banks

  • Rebecca S. Demsetz
  • Marc R. Saidenberg
  • Philip E. Strahan
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    The moral hazard problem associated with deposit insurance generates the potential for excessive risk taking on the part of bank owners. The banking literature identifies franchise value--a firm's profit-generating potential--as one force mitigating that risk taking. We argue that in the presence of owner/manager agency problems, managerial risk aversion may also offset the excessive risk taking that stems from moral hazard. Empirical models of bank risk tend to focus either on the disciplinary role of franchise value or on owner/manager agency problems. We estimate a unified model and find that both franchise value and ownership structure affect risk at banks. More important, we identify an interesting interaction effect: The relationship between ownership structure and risk is significant only at low-franchise value banks--those where moral hazard problems are most severe and where conflicts between owner and manager risk preferences are therefore strongest. For these banks, insider holdings affect risk taking through asset risk, while ownership concentration affects risk taking through leverage. This is consistent with the idea that outside blockholders more readily control managerial risk-taking by influencing leverage than by influencing asset risk.

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    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Research Paper with number 9709.

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    Date of creation: 1997
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fednrp:9709
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    1. Gary Gorton & Richard Rosen, 1992. "Corporate control, portfolio choice, and the decline of banking," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 215, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Elijah Brewer, III & Marc R. Saidenberg, 1996. "Franchise value, ownership structure, and risk at savings institutions," Research Paper 9632, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    3. Acharya, Sankarshan, 1996. "Charter value, minimum bank capital requirement and deposit insurance pricing in equilibrium," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 351-375, March.
    4. Saunders, Anthony & Strock, Elizabeth & Travlos, Nickolaos G, 1990. " Ownership Structure, Deregulation, and Bank Risk Taking," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(2), pages 643-54, June.
    5. Houston, Joel F. & James, Christopher, 1995. "CEO compensation and bank risk Is compensation in banking structured to promote risk taking?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 405-431, November.
    6. Berger, Allen N & Udell, Gregory F, 1995. "Relationship Lending and Lines of Credit in Small Firm Finance," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 68(3), pages 351-81, July.
    7. Demsetz, Rebecca S & Strahan, Philip E, 1997. "Diversification, Size, and Risk at Bank Holding Companies," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(3), pages 300-313, August.
    8. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    9. Keeley, Michael C, 1990. "Deposit Insurance, Risk, and Market Power in Banking," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1183-1200, December.
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