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

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  • John P. Harding

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Xiaozhing Liang

    (State Street Corporation)

  • Stephen L. Ross

    (University of Connecticut)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • John P. Harding & Xiaozhing Liang & Stephen L. Ross, 2007. "The Optimal Capital Structure of Banks: Balancing Deposit Insurance, Capital Requirements and Tax-Advantaged Debt," Working papers 2007-29, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Casey Mulligan & Luke Threinen, 2008. "Market Responses to the Panic of 2008," NBER Working Papers 14446, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Stig Helberg & Snorre Lindset, 2013. "Bank Debt Regulations Implications for Bank Capital and Bond Risk," Working Paper Series 14813, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
    3. Helberg, Stig & Lindset, Snorre, 2014. "How do asset encumbrance and debt regulations affect bank capital and bond risk?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 39-54.
    4. Nordal, Kjell Bjørn, 2009. "A real options approach for evaluating the implementation of a risk-sensitive capital rule in banks," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 132-141, August.

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