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The Optimal Capital Structure of Banks: Balancing Deposit Insurance, Capital Requirements and Tax-Advantaged Debt

  • John P. Harding

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Xiaozhing Liang

    (State Street Corporation)

  • Stephen L. Ross

    (University of Connecticut)

The capital structure and regulation of financial intermediaries is an important topic for practitioners, regulators and academic researchers. In general, theory predicts that firms choose their capital structures by balancing the benefits of debt (e.g., tax and agency benefits) against its costs (e.g., bankruptcy costs). However, when traditional corporate finance models have been applied to insured financial institutions, the results have generally predicted corner solutions (all equity or all debt) to the capital structure problem. This paper studies the impact and interaction of deposit insurance, capital requirements and tax benefits on a bank's choice of optimal capital structure. Using a contingent claims model to value the firm and its associated claims, we find that there exists an interior optimal capital ratio in the presence of deposit insurance, taxes and a minimum fixed capital standard. Banks voluntarily choose to maintain capital in excess of the minimum required in order to balance the risks of insolvency (especially the loss of future tax benefits) against the benefits of additional debt. Because we derive a closed- form solution, our model provides useful insights on several current policy debates including revisions to the regulatory framework for GSEs, tax policy in general and the tax exemption for credit unions.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2007-29.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2007
Date of revision: Feb 2008
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2007-29
Note: We wish to thank Dwight Jaffee, William Lang, Wenli Li, Nancy Wallace and James Wilcox for comments, as well as participants at seminars given at the Haas School, the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and St. Louis, FannieMae, and State Street Corporation.
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  1. Buser, Stephen A & Chen, Andrew H & Kane, Edward J, 1981. "Federal Deposit Insurance, Regulatory Policy, and Optimal Bank Capital," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(1), pages 51-60, March.
  2. Leland, Hayne E, 1994. " Corporate Debt Value, Bond Covenants, and Optimal Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1213-52, September.
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  17. Marshall, David A. & Prescott, Edward Simpson, 2001. "Bank capital regulation with and without state-contingent penalties," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 139-184, June.
  18. Gueyie, Jean-Pierre & Lai, Van Son, 2003. "Bank moral hazard and the introduction of official deposit insurance in Canada," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 247-273.
  19. Douglas W. Diamond, 2001. "Should banks be capitalized?," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Fall, pages 71-96.
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