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Micro-aspects of Monetary Policy in Pre-war Japan: Lender of Last Resort and Selection of Banks


  • Tetsuji Okazaki

    (Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo)


The central bank as the Lender of Last Resort (LLR) is faced with a trade off between the stability of the financial system and the "moral hazard" of banks. In this paper we explore how this trade off was dealt with by the Bank of Japan (BOJ) in the pre-war period, and how LLR lending by the BOJ affected the financial system. In particular, this paper focuses on the following two stylized facts of Japanese financial history. First, the BOJ actively intervened in the market as the LLR under the unstable financial system in the 1920s. Second, in this period, the financial market worked well to sort out inefficient banks through failures. In providing an LLR loan, the BOJ adopted the policy of favoring those banks that had an already established transaction relationship with the BOJ. At the same time, the BOJ was selective about which banks it would enter into a transaction relationship with. That is, the BOJ chose the banks it would conduct transactions with based on criteria that included profitability, liquidity, quality of assets, and the personal assets of directors. Furthermore, the BOJ did not hesitate to suspend transaction relationships with those banks whose performance declined. This policy enabled the BOJ to act as the LLR without impairing the function of the market to sort out inefficient banks. Whereas the transaction relationship with the BOJ affected a bank's survivability, the effect was not across the board. That is, the transaction relationship did not increase the survivability of a bank directly, but it increased the influence of profitability and liquidity on survivability, especially in a period of financial crisis. This implies that the BOJ bailed out only those transaction counterparts that were profitable and prudent when the financial system was especially unstable. It is suggested that through concentrating LLR lending on its transaction counterparts, the BOJ could successfully bail out only those banks which were illiquid but solvent, and thereby avoided the moral hazard that the LLR policy might otherwise have incurred.

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  • Tetsuji Okazaki, 2006. "Micro-aspects of Monetary Policy in Pre-war Japan: Lender of Last Resort and Selection of Banks," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-398, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  • Handle: RePEc:tky:fseres:2006cf398

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ben Naylor, J. & Naim, Mohamed M & Berry, Danny, 1999. "Leagility: Integrating the lean and agile manufacturing paradigms in the total supply chain," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1-2), pages 107-118, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sawada, Michiru, 2010. "Liquidity risk and bank portfolio management in a financial system without deposit insurance: Empirical evidence from prewar Japan," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 392-406, June.
    2. Yokoyama, Kazuki, 2007. "Too Big to Fail: the Panic of 1927," MPRA Paper 2768, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Marc Flandreau, Stefano Ugolini, 2011. "Where It All Began: Lending of Last Resort and the Bank of England during the Overend, Gurney Panic of 1866," IHEID Working Papers 04-2011, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    4. Christopher Hoag, 2015. "Clearinghouse Loan Certificates as a Lender of Last Resort," Working Papers 1503, Trinity College, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2015.

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