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Optimal Bail Out Policy, Conditionality and Creative Ambiguity

  • Xavier Freixas

This paper addresses the issue of the optimal behaviour of the Lender of Last Resort (LOLR) in its microeconomic role regarding individual financial institutions in distress. It has been argued that the LOLR should not intervene at the microeconomic level and let any defaulting institution face the market discipline, as it will be confronted with the consequences of the risks it has taken. By considering a simple cost benefit analysis we show that this position my lack a sufficient foundation. We establish that, instead, under reasonable assumptions, the optimal policy has to be conditional on the amount of uninsured debt issued by the defaulting bank. Yet in equilibrium, because the rescue policy is costly, the LOLR will not rescue all the banks that fulfil the uninsured debt requirement condition, but will follow a fixed strategy. This we interpret as the confirmation of the ¶creative ambiguity¶ principle, perfectly in line with the central bankers claim that it is efficient for them to have discretion in lending to individual institutions. Alternatively, in other cases, when the social cost of a banks bankruptcy is too high, it is optimal for the LOLR to bail out the institution, and this gives support to the ¶too big to fail¶ policy.

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File URL: http://www.lse.ac.uk/fmg/workingPapers/discussionPapers/fmg_pdfs/dp327.pdf
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Paper provided by Financial Markets Group in its series FMG Discussion Papers with number dp327.

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Date of creation: May 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fmg:fmgdps:dp327
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/fmg/

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