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A Troubled Asset Reverse Auction



The US Treasury has proposed purchasing $700 billion of troubled assets to restore liquidity and solve the current financial crisis, using market mechanisms such as reverse auctions where appropriate. This paper presents a high-level design for a troubled asset reverse auction and discusses the auction design issues. We assume that the key objectives of the auction are to: 1) provide a quick and effective means to purchase troubled assets and increase liquidity; 2) protect the taxpayer by yielding a price for assets related to their value; and 3) offer a transparent rules-based process that minimizes discretion and favoritism. We propose a two-part approach. Part 1. Groups of related securities are purchased in simultaneous descending clock auctions. The auctions operate on a security-by-security basis to avoid adverse selection. To assure that the auction for each security is competitive, the demand for each security is capped at the total quantity offered by all but the largest three sellers. Demand bids from private buyers are also allowed. The simultaneous clock auctions protect the taxpayer by yielding a competitive price for each security and allow bidders to manage liquidity constraints and portfolio risk. The resulting price discovery also improves the liquidity of the securities that are not purchased in the auctions. Part 2. Following Part 1, the remaining quantity is purchased in descending clock auctions in which many securities are pooled together. To minimize adverse selection, reference prices are calculated for each security from a model that includes all of the characteristics of each security including the market information revealed in the security-by-security auctions of Part 1. Bids in the pooled auctions are specified in terms of a percentage of the reference price for each security.

Suggested Citation

  • Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton, 2008. "A Troubled Asset Reverse Auction," Papers of Peter Cramton 08tara, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:pcc:pccumd:08tara

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McCabe, Kevin A & Rassenti, Stephen J & Smith, Vernon L, 1990. "Auction Institutional Design: Theory and Behavior of Simultaneous Multiple-Unit Generalizations of the Dutch and English Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1276-1283, December.
    2. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton & Marek Pycia & Marzena Rostek & Marek Weretka, 2014. "Demand Reduction and Inefficiency in Multi-Unit Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(4), pages 1366-1400.
    3. Alsemgeest, Paul & Noussair, Charles & Olson, Mark, 1998. "Experimental Comparisons of Auctions under Single- and Multi-Unit Demand," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(1), pages 87-97, January.
    4. Cramton, Peter, 1998. "Ascending auctions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 745-756, May.
    5. Levin, Dan & Kagel, John H & Richard, Jean-Francois, 1996. "Revenue Effects and Information Processing in English Common Value Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 442-460, June.
    6. Kagel, John H & Levin, Dan, 2001. "Behavior in Multi-unit Demand Auctions: Experiments with Uniform Price and Dynamic Vickrey Auctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(2), pages 413-454, March.
    7. Kagel, John H & Harstad, Ronald M & Levin, Dan, 1987. "Information Impact and Allocation Rules in Auctions with Affiliated Private Values: A Laboratory Study," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(6), pages 1275-1304, November.
    8. McAdams, David, 2007. "Adjustable supply in uniform price auctions: Non-commitment as a strategic tool," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 48-53, April.
    9. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton, 2004. "Auctioning Many Divisible Goods," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 480-493, 04/05.
    10. Milgrom,Paul, 2004. "Putting Auction Theory to Work," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521536721, March.
    11. Ausubel Lawrence M & Cramton Peter, 2008. "Auction Design Critical for Rescue Plan," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 5(5), pages 1-3, September.
    12. Milgrom, Paul R & Weber, Robert J, 1982. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1089-1122, September.
    13. Lawrence M. Ausubel, 2004. "An Efficient Ascending-Bid Auction for Multiple Objects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1452-1475, December.
    14. Kagel, John H., 1995. "Cross-game learning: Experimental evidence from first-price and English common value auctions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 163-170, August.
    15. McAfee, R Preston & McMillan, John, 1987. "Auctions and Bidding," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 699-738, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xavier Vives, 2011. "Strategic Supply Function Competition With Private Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(6), pages 1919-1966, November.
    2. Xavier Vives, 2010. "Asset Auctions, Information, and Liquidity," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(2-3), pages 467-477, 04-05.
    3. Max Bruche & Gerard Llobet, 2010. "Walking Wounded or Living Dead? Making Banks Foreclose Bad Loans," Working Papers wp2010_1003, CEMFI.
    4. Lester, Benjamin, 2013. "Breaking the ice: government interventions in frozen markets," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q4, pages 19-25.

    More about this item


    Auctions; financial auctions; financial crisis;

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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