IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Moral Hazard of Insuring the Insurers


  • James G. Bohn
  • Brian J. Hall


State guaranty funds are quasi-governmental agencies that provide insurance to policyholders against the risk of insurance company failure. But insurance provided by guaranty funds, like all insurance, creates moral hazard problems, especially for companies that are insolvent or near-insolvent. The key insight of this paper is that because of the time lag between premium payments and losses (which is especially lengthy in long-tail lines), writing policies is one way for insurance companies to borrow money (i.e., from policyholders). Moreover, the existence of guaranty fund insurance enables insurance companies, even very risky ones, to borrow from policyholders at rates that do not reflect the insurer's default risk. Thus, one way for insurance companies to game the guaranty fund system is to engage in excessive premium writing. Consistent with this idea, we find that insolvent P&C insurance companies tended to have very high premium growth before they failed. More than one-third of the failed insurance companies had premium growth of more than 50 percent in the two years before failure. Moreover, this excessive premium growth was more pronounced in long-tail lines than in short-tail lines. We also find evidence that greater regulatory resources are associated with less gaming of the system.

Suggested Citation

  • James G. Bohn & Brian J. Hall, 1997. "The Moral Hazard of Insuring the Insurers," NBER Working Papers 5911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5911
    Note: PE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cummins, J David, 1988. " Risk-Based Premiums for Insurance Guaranty Funds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(4), pages 823-839, September.
    2. James, Christopher, 1991. " The Losses Realized in Bank Failures," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(4), pages 1223-1242, September.
    3. Merton, Robert C., 1977. "An analytic derivation of the cost of deposit insurance and loan guarantees An application of modern option pricing theory," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 3-11, June.
    4. Brian J. Hall, 1996. "Regulatory Free Cash Flow and the High Cost of Insurance Company Failure," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1782, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
    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. Brian J. Hall, 1998. "Regulatory Free Cash Flow and the High Cost of Insurance Company Failures," NBER Working Papers 6837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    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:nbr:nberwo:5911. 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: () or (Joanne Lustig). 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.