Enforcement, Contract Design, and Default: Exploring the Financial Markets of Costa Rica
This paper examines the institutional determinants of incentives to repay in Costa Rica and their effects on defaults and the design of financial contracts. Enforcement mechanisms help to determine how much is paid back to creditors and how much shareholders receive as dividends. Theoretically, however, the most important effects will be on the observable characteristics of contracts, as rational agents foresee the incentives of other parties. As courts enforce contracts and punish defaulters, they determine the form contracts take and the magnitude and direction of investments. The paper contains findings on the practices of financial intermediaries that are discussed in the context of contract theory, with a focus on the formal financial intermediaries that are scattered throughout the country. Much of the information comes from primary sources, including a sample of almost 1,700 civil trials and a detailed survey on the credit policies of 31 intermediaries. This paper reviews the creditor-borrower relationship at all stages—ex ante, interim, and ex post. The evidence supports the importance of collateral and other ex post repayment incentives. The evidence also suggests that, contrary to the common view, banks are not passive lenders. They remain alert to how well projects perform and rely on previous experience and a rather sophisticated informational network in granting credit.
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