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Contingent Capital and Bank Risk-Taking among British Banks before World War I

  • Richard S. Grossman

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Wesleyan University)

  • Masami Imai

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Wesleyan University)

The recent financial turmoil highlights the incentive of highly leveraged financial institutions to take excessive risk, given the protection of limited liability. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, many banks operated under liability rules which obligated shareholders to bear larger costs of bank insolvency in the form of contingent, or even unlimited liability. This paper examines the empirical relationship between the size of banks’ contingent liability and their risk-taking behavior using data on British banks from 1878-1912. We find that banks with more contingent liability appear to have taken less risk. We also find evidence that the risk-reducing effects of contingent liability were larger for banks with higher leverage, suggesting that contingent capital mitigated moral hazard problem at banks.

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File URL: http://repec.wesleyan.edu/pdf/rgrossman/2011003_grossman.pdf
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Paper provided by Wesleyan University, Department of Economics in its series Wesleyan Economics Working Papers with number 2011-003.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming in the Economic History Review
Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2011-003
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Web page: http://www.wesleyan.edu/econ/

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  7. Grossman, Richard S., 2007. "Fear and greed: The evolution of double liability in American banking, 1865-1930," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 59-80, January.
  8. Richard S. Grossman, 2010. "Unsettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 9219.
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  12. Acheson, Graeme G. & Turner, John D., 2008. "The death blow to unlimited liability in Victorian Britain: The City of Glasgow failure," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 235-253, July.
  13. Carr, Jack L & Mathewson, G Frank, 1988. "Unlimited Liability as a Barrier to Entry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 766-84, August.
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  16. Hickson, Charles R. & Turner, John D., 2003. "The Trading of Unlimited Liability Bank Shares in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: The Bagehot Hypothesis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(04), pages 931-958, December.
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  22. Magnus Blomström & Jennifer Corbett & Fumio Hayashi & Anil Kashyap, 2003. "Structural Impediments to Growth in Japan," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blom03-1, June.
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