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Bank Capital and Portfolio Management: The 1930's Capital Crunch and Scramble to Shed Risk

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  • Charles W. Calormiris
  • Berry Wilson

Abstract

Recent models of banking under asymmetric information argue that depositors penalize banks that offer high-risk deposits. Focusing on New York City banks in the 1920's and 1930's, this study examines how banks manage risk during normal times and in response to severe shocks. We develop and apply a simple framework that identifies the tradeoffs among alternative means of satisfying depositors' preferences for low-risk deposits (i.e. low asset risk versus high capital). During the 1920's profitable lending opportunities and low costs of raising capital prompted banks to increase their asset risk, while increasing capital to maintain low default risks on deposits. Cross-sectional differences in the cost of raising equity explain differences in banks' choices of asset risk and capital ratios. In the wake of the loan losses produced by the Depression, high default risk was penalized with deposit withdrawals. To reduce deposit risk, banks increased their riskless assets and cut dividends, but avoided costly equity issues. Banks with high default risk or with high costs of raising equity contracted dividends the most during the 1930's.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles W. Calormiris & Berry Wilson, 1998. "Bank Capital and Portfolio Management: The 1930's Capital Crunch and Scramble to Shed Risk," NBER Working Papers 6649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6649
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Feltenstein, Andrew & Rochon, Céline & Shamloo, Maral, 2010. "High growth and low consumption in East Asia: How to improve welfare while avoiding financial failures," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 25-36, January.
    2. von Peter, Goetz, 2009. "Asset prices and banking distress: A macroeconomic approach," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 298-319, September.
    3. Arnold, Eva A. & Größl, Ingrid & Koziol, Philipp, 2016. "Market discipline across bank governance models: Empirical evidence from German depositors," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 126-138.
    4. María Soledad Martínez-Peria & Sergio Schmukler, 2002. "Do Depositors Punish Banks for Bad Behavior? Market Discipline, Deposit Insurance, and Banking Crises," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Leonardo Hernández & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Se (ed.), Banking, Financial Integration, and International Crises, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 5, pages 143-174 Central Bank of Chile.
    5. Asli Demirguc-Kunt & Edward J. Kane, 2002. "Deposit Insurance Around the Globe: Where Does It Work?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 175-195, Spring.
    6. Attar, Andrea & Campioni, Eloisa, 2003. "Costly state verification and debt contracts: a critical resume," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(4), pages 315-343, December.
    7. Gersbach, Hans, 2013. "Bank capital and the optimal capital structure of an economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 241-255.
    8. Patrick Bolton & Xavier Freixas, 2000. "Equity, Bonds, and Bank Debt: Capital Structure and Financial Market Equilibrium under Asymmetric Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 324-351, April.
    9. Berry K. Wilson & Edward J. Kane, 1996. "The Demise of Double Liability as an Optimal Contract for Large-Bank Stockholders," NBER Working Papers 5848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. ATTAR, Andréa, 2003. "Financial contracting along the business cycle," CORE Discussion Papers 2003069, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    11. Elijah Brewer & William E. Jackson & James T. Moser, 2001. "The value of using interest rate derivatives to manage risk of U.S. banking organizations," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q III, pages 49-66.
    12. Paolo Tasca & Stefano Battiston, "undated". "Market Procyclicality and Systemic Risk," Working Papers ETH-RC-12-012, ETH Zurich, Chair of Systems Design.
    13. repec:wsi:ijfexx:v:04:y:2017:i:02n03:n:s2424786317500256 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill

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