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Conflicting Priorities: A Theory of Covenants and Collateral

Author

Listed:
  • Jason Donaldson

    (Washington University in St Louis)

  • Denis Gromb

    (HEC Paris)

  • Giorgia Piacentino

    (Columbia University)

Abstract

Debt secured by collateral has absolute priority in the event of default—it is paid ahead of unsecured debt, even if unsecured debt is protected by negative pledge covenants prohibiting new secured debt. We develop a model of how this priority rule leads to conflicts among creditors, but can be optimal nonetheless: borrowers’ option to use collateral in violation of covenants allows for the dilution of existing debt, and hence prevents under-investment, whereas creditors’ option to accelerate debt following a covenant violation deters dilution, and hence prevents over-investment. The optimal investment policy is implementable via a mix of different types of debt, including secured and unsecured debt with tight and loose covenants. The model is consistent with a number of stylized facts about debt structure, covenants, and their violations.

Suggested Citation

  • Jason Donaldson & Denis Gromb & Giorgia Piacentino, 2019. "Conflicting Priorities: A Theory of Covenants and Collateral," 2019 Meeting Papers 157, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed019:157
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