This paper comments on "The Real Bills Doctrine vs. the Quantity-Theory: a Reconsideration" by T. Sargent and N. Wallace. It argues that there exists a class of models similar to theirs that is (a) favorable to the quantity theory view of price stability, (b) supports the imposition of 100 percent reserve requirements, and (c) explains a long history of legal credit restrictions. In particular, lending restrictions stabilize price levels and result in Pareto improvements.
This paper considers a view commonly associated with the "quantity theory of money": that banks should face 100 percent reserve requirements. It argues first that the objectives of the quantity theorists' proposals were more than merely price level stability, and that in fact, price level stability was at most a secondary objective of their proposals. Second, it argues that these theorists had a world with distortions in mind with respect to their proposals. These are present in a special setting examined that (a) supports the imposition of 100 percent reserve requirements (on the basis of an unconstrained Pareto criterion), and (b) supports the view that these restrictions stabilize the price level and make its movements more "predictable."
This paper briefly recounts several of the key financial developments of 1974, describes the contingency planning exercise developed by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank to encourage planning by large member banks, and then discusses some of the comments received in a trial run. The Appendix contains a copy of the exercise together with an illustrative example.
This study estimates the effects of allowing bank holding companies (BHCs) to enter several lines of financial business not now permitted. A simulation technique is used to estimate the risk and return of hypothetical financial corporations after merger between a BHC and a large firm in each of these industries: securities, real estate, life insurance, property and casualty insurance, and insurance agencies. The study concludes that a merger between a BHC and a life insurance company may decrease the probability of bankruptcy for the merged firm relative to the BHC alone. This result does not hold true, however, for BHC mergers with firms in the other industries. In particular, BHC mergers with securities or real estate firms are found to increase the probability of bankruptcy.
In this paper, we study the optimal design of financial safety nets under limited private credit. We ask when it is optimal to restrict ex ante the set of investors that can receive public liquidity support ex post. When the government can commit, the optimal safety net covers all investors. Introducing a wedge between identical investors is inefficient. Without commitment, an optimally designed financial safety net covers only a subset of investors. Compared to an economy where all investors are protected, this results in more liquid portfolios, better social insurance, and higher ex ante welfare. Our result can rationalize the prevalent limited coverage of safety nets, such as the lender of last resort facilities.
During the financial crisis, life insurers sold long-term policies at deep discounts relative to actuarial value. The average markup was as low as −19 percent for annuities and −57 percent for life insurance. This extraordinary pricing behavior was due to financial and product market frictions, interacting with statutory reserve regulation that allowed life insurers to record far less than a dollar of reserve per dollar of future insurance liability. We identify the shadow cost of capital through exogenous variation in required reserves across different types of policies. The shadow cost was $0.96 per dollar of statutory capital for the average company in November 2008.
Liabilities ceded by life insurers to shadow reinsurers (i.e., less regulated and unrated off-balance-sheet entities) grew from $11 billion in 2002 to $364 billion in 2012. Life insurers using shadow insurance, which capture half of the market share, ceded 25 cents of every dollar insured to shadow reinsurers in 2012, up from 2 cents in 2002. Our adjustment for shadow insurance reduces risk-based capital by 53 percentage points (or 3 rating notches) and increases default probabilities by a factor of 3.5. We develop a structural model of the life insurance industry and estimate the impact of current policy proposals to limit or eliminate shadow insurance. In the counterfactual without shadow insurance, the average company using shadow insurance would raise prices by 10 to 21 percent, and annual life insurance underwritten would fall by 7 to 16 percent for the industry.
We develop a model in which, in order to provide managerial incentives, it is optimal to have costly bankruptcy. If benevolent governments can commit to their policies, it is optimal not to interfere with private contracts. Such policies are time inconsistent in the sense that, without commitment, governments have incentives to bail out firms by buying up the debt of distressed firms and renegotiating their contracts with managers. From an ex ante perspective, however, such bailouts are costly because they worsen incentives and thereby reduce welfare. We show that regulation in the form of limits on the debt-to-value ratio of firms mitigates the time-inconsistency problem by eliminating the incentives of governments to undertake bailouts. In terms of the cyclical properties of regulation, we show that regulation should be tightest in aggregate states in which resources lost to bankruptcy in the equilibrium without a government are largest.
We develop a model of equilibrium entry, trade, and price formation in over-the-counter (OTC) markets. Banks trade derivatives to share an aggregate risk subject to two trading frictions: they must pay a fixed entry cost, and they must limit the size of the positions taken by their traders because of risk-management concerns. Although all banks in our model are endowed with access to the same trading technology, some large banks endogenously arise as “dealers,” trading mainly to provide intermediation services, while medium sized banks endogenously participate as “customers” mainly to share risks. We use the model to address positive questions regarding the growth in OTC markets as trading frictions decline, and normative questions of how regulation of entry impacts welfare.
Before the advent of sophisticated international financial markets, a widely accepted belief was that within a monetary union, a union-wide authority orchestrating fiscal transfers between countries is necessary to provide adequate insurance against country-specific economic fluctuations. A natural question is then: Do sophisticated international financial markets obviate the need for such an active union-wide authority? We argue that they do. Specifically, we show that in a benchmark economy with no international financial markets, an activist union-wide authority is necessary to achieve desirable outcomes. With sophisticated financial markets, however, such an authority is unnecessary if its only goal is to provide cross-country insurance. Since restricting the set of policy instruments available to member countries does not create a fiscal externality across them, this result holds in a wide variety of settings. Finally, we establish that an activist union-wide authority concerned just with providing insurance across member countries is optimal only when individual countries are either unable or unwilling to pursue desirable policies
We elaborate on the business cycle accounting method proposed by Chari, Kehoe, and McGrattan (2007), clear up some misconceptions about the method, and then apply it to compare the Great Recession across OECD countries as well as to the recessions of the 1980s in these countries. We have four main findings. First, with the notable exception of the United States, Spain, Ireland, and Iceland, the Great Recession was driven primarily by the efficiency wedge. Second, in the Great Recession, the labor wedge plays a dominant role only in the United States, and the investment wedge plays a dominant role in Spain, Ireland, and Iceland. Third, in the recessions of the 1980s, the labor wedge played a dominant role only in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and New Zealand. Finally, overall in the Great Recession the efficiency wedge played a more important role and the investment wedge played a less important role than they did in the recessions of the 1980s.
Banks' ratio of the market value to book value of their equity was close to 1 until the 1990s, then more than doubled during the 1996-2007 period, and fell again to values close to 1 after the 2008 financial crisis. Sarin and Summers (2016) and Chousakos and Gorton (2017) argue that the drop in banks' market-to-book ratio since the crisis is due to a loss in bank franchise value or profitability. In this paper we argue that banks' market-to-book ratio is the sum of two components: franchise value and the value of government guarantees. We empirically decompose the ratio between these two components and find that a large portion of the variation in this ratio over time is due to changes in the value of government guarantees.