IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Environmental Risks : Should Banks Be Liable?


  • GOBERT, Karine
  • POITEVIN, Michel


This paper studies the impact of banks' liability for environmental damages caused by their borrowers. Laws or court decisions that declare banks liable for environmental damages have two objectives : (1) finding someone to pay for the damages and (2) exerting a pressure on a firm's stakeholders to incite them to invest in environmental risk prevention. We study the effect that such legal decisions can have on financing relationships and especially on the incentives to reduce environmental risk in an environment where banks cannot commit to refinance the firm in all circumstances. Following an environmental accident, liable banks more readily agree to refinance the firm. We then show that bank liability effectively makes refinancing more attractive to banks, therefore improving the firm's risk-sharing possibilities. Consequently, the firm's incentives to invest in environmental risk reduction are weakened compared to the (bank) no-liability case. We also show that, when banks are liable, the firm invests at the full-commitment optimal level of risk reduction investment. If there are some externalities such that some damages cannot be accounted for, the socially efficient level of investment is greater than the privately optimal one. in that case, making banks non-liable can be socially desirable.

Suggested Citation

  • GOBERT, Karine & POITEVIN, Michel, 1998. "Environmental Risks : Should Banks Be Liable?," Cahiers de recherche 1198, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:1198

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. BOYER, Marcel, 1995. "Environmental Protection Producer Insolvency and Lender Liability," Cahiers de recherche 9557, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
    2. T. Randolph Beard, 1990. "Bankruptcy and Care Choice," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(4), pages 626-634, Winter.
    3. Segerson Kathleen, 1993. "Liability Transfers: An Economic Assessment of Buyer and Lender Liability," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 46-63, July.
    4. Segerson, Kathleen & Tietenberg, Tom, 1992. "The structure of penalties in environmental enforcement: An economic analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 179-200, September.
    5. Weitzman Martin L., 1994. "On the Environmental Discount Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 200-209, March.
    6. Boyer, Marcel & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1997. "Environmental risks and bank liability," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1427-1459, August.
    7. Jonathan Thomas & Tim Worrall, 1988. "Self-Enforcing Wage Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(4), pages 541-554.
    8. Pitchford, Rohan, 1995. "How Liable Should a Lender Be? The Case of Judgment-Proof Firms and Environmental Risk," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1171-1186, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Marcel Boyer & Donatella Porrini, 2007. "Sharing Liability Between Banks and Firms: The Case of Industrial Safety Risk," CIRANO Working Papers 2007s-04, CIRANO.
    2. Marcel Boyer & Donatella Porrini, 2000. "Law versus Regulation: A Political Economy Model of Instrument Choice in Environmental Policy," CIRANO Working Papers 2000s-57, CIRANO.
    3. Sandrine SPAETER, 2002. "Principe de precaution et comportements preventifs des firmes face aux risques environnementaux," Working Papers of BETA 2002-08, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    4. André SCHMITT & Sandrine SPAETER, 2002. "Improving the Prevention of Environmental Risks with Convertible Bonds," Working Papers of BETA 2002-14, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.

    More about this item


    environment; bank liability; financial contracts; non-commitment;

    JEL classification:

    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:1198. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sharon BREWER). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.