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Dividends and Bank Capital in the Financial Crisis of 2007-2009

  • Viral V. Acharya
  • Irvind Gujral
  • Nirupama Kulkarni
  • Hyun Song Shin

The headline numbers appear to show that even as banks and financial intermediaries suffered large credit losses in the financial crisis of 2007-09, they raised substantial amounts of new capital, both from private investors and through government-funded capital injections. However, on closer inspection the composition of bank capital shifted radically from one based on common equity to that based on debt-like hybrid claims such as preferred equity and subordinated debt. The erosion of common equity was exacerbated by large scale payments of dividends, in spite of widely anticipated credit losses. Dividend payments represent a transfer from creditors (and potentially taxpayers) to equity holders in violation of the priority of debt over equity. The dwindling pool of common equity in the banking system may have been one reason for the continued reluctance by banks to lend over this period. We draw conclusions on how capital regulation may be reformed in light of our findings.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16896.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16896
Note: CF
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  1. Viral V. Acharya & Hamid Mehran & Anjan V. Thakor, 2010. "Caught between Scylla and Charybdis? Regulating bank leverage when there is rent seeking and risk shifting," Staff Reports 469, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. Viral V. Acharya & Philipp Schnabl & Gustavo Suarez, 2010. "Securitization without risk transfer," NBER Working Papers 15730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Adrian, Tobias & Shin, Hyun Song, 2010. "Liquidity and leverage," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 418-437, July.
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  7. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicholas S., 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 187-221, June.
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  9. 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.
  10. Eric S. Rosengren, 2010. "Dividend policy and capital retention: a systemic “first response”," Speech 38, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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