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Zombie Lending and Policy Traps


  • Viral V. Acharya
  • Simone Lenzu
  • Olivier Wang


We build a model with heterogeneous firms and banks to analyze how policy affects credit allocation and long-term economic outcomes. When firms are hit by small negative shocks, conventional monetary policy can restore efficient bank lending and production by lowering interest rates. Large shocks, however, necessitate unconventional policy such as regulatory forbearance towards banks to stabilize the economy. Aggressive accommodation runs the risk of introducing zombie lending and a “diabolical sorting”, whereby low-capitalization banks extend new credit or evergreen existing loans to low-productivity firms. If shocks reduce the profitability gap between healthy and zombie firms, the optimal forbearance policy is non-monotone in the size of the shock. In a dynamic setting, policy aimed at avoiding short-term recessions can be trapped into protracted low rates and excessive forbearance, due to congestion externalities imposed by zombie lending on healthier firms. The resulting economic sclerosis delays the recovery from transitory shocks, and can even lead to permanent output losses.

Suggested Citation

  • Viral V. Acharya & Simone Lenzu & Olivier Wang, 2021. "Zombie Lending and Policy Traps," NBER Working Papers 29606, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:29606
    Note: CF EFG ME

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    Cited by:

    1. Charles A.E. Goodhart & Dimitrios P. Tsomocos & Xuan Wang, 2023. "Support for small businesses amid COVID‐19," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 90(358), pages 612-652, April.
    2. Elham Daadmehr, 2024. "Workplace sustainability or financial resilience? Composite-financial resilience index," Papers 2403.16296,
    3. Barbaro, Bianca & Tirelli, Patrizio, 2021. "Forbearance vs foreclosure in a general equilibrium model," Working Paper Series 2531, European Central Bank.
    4. Beatriz González & Galo Nuño & Dominik Thaler & Silvia Albrizio, 2021. "Firm Heterogeneity, Capital Misallocation and Optimal Monetary Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 9465, CESifo.
    5. Maximilian Gobel & Nuno Tavares, 2022. "Zombie-Lending in the United States -- Prevalence versus Relevance," Papers 2201.10524,, revised Jul 2022.
    6. Faria-e-Castro, Miguel & Paul, Pascal & Sánchez, Juan M., 2024. "Evergreening," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 153(C).
      • Miguel Faria-e-Castro & Pascal Paul & Juan M. Sanchez, 2021. "Evergreening," Working Papers 2021-012, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revised Aug 2023.
      • Miguel Faria-e-Castro & Pascal Paul & Juan M. Sanchez, 2022. "Evergreening," Working Paper Series 2022-14, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    7. Marco Pagano & Josef Zechner, 2022. "COVID-19 and Corporate Finance [The risk of being a fallen angel and the corporate dash for cash in the midst of COVID]," The Review of Corporate Finance Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 11(4), pages 849-879.
    8. Elham Daadmehr, 2024. "Workplace sustainability or financial resilience? Composite-financial resilience index," Risk Management, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 26(2), pages 1-35, May.
    9. Kaehny, Maximilian & Herweg, Fabian, 2022. "Do Zombies Rise When Interest Rates Fall? A Relationship-Banking Model," VfS Annual Conference 2022 (Basel): Big Data in Economics 264126, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    10. Fabian Herweg & Maximilian Kähny, 2022. "Do Zombies Rise when Interest Rates Fall? A Relationship Banking Model," CESifo Working Paper Series 9628, CESifo.
    11. Barbiero, Francesca & Burlon, Lorenzo & Dimou, Maria & Toczynski, Jan, 2022. "Targeted monetary policy, dual rates and bank risk taking," Working Paper Series 2682, European Central Bank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation

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