We study banks’ optimal equity buffer in general equilibrium, as well as their ex-post response to under-capitalization. Developing a “pecking order theory” for private recapitalizations, our benchmark model identifies equity issuance as individually and socially optimal, compared to deleveraging, and conditions that invert the individually optimal ranking. Ex-ante, the imperfectly elastic supply of capital, incomplete insurance markets and costly bankruptcies give rise to inefficiently high capital shortfalls and excessive insolvencies. Abstracting from moral hazard and informational asymmetries, we therefore provide a novel rationale for macroprudential capital regulation emerges and a new set of testable implications about banks’ capital structure management.
We develop a general equilibrium model of banks’ capital structure, featuring heterogeneous portfolio risk and an imperfectly elastic supply of bank equity stemming from financial market segmentation. In our model, equity is costly and serves as a buffer against costly bankruptcy. Banks are ex-ante identical, but may need to recapitalize by selling equity claims after their portfolio risk becomes public knowledge. When the need to issue outside equity arises simultaneously in a large number of banks, the market for equity becomes crowded. Reminiscent of asset fire sales, banks do not fully internalize the effect of their individual equity issuance on the endogenous cost of equity and their future ability to recapitalize. As a result, they are under- capitalized in equilibrium, and the incidence of insolvency is inefficiently high. This constrained inefficiency provides a new rationale for macroprudential capital regulation that arises despite the absence of deposit insurance and moral hazard; it also has implications for the regulation of payout policies and the design of bank stress testing.
Keywords: macroprudential policy, capital regulation, capital structure, financial market segmentation, incomplete markets, constrained inefficiency.
Market distress can be the catalyst of a deleveraging wave, as in the 2007/08 financial crisis. This paper demonstrates how market distress and financial sector deleveraging can fuel each other in the presence of adverse selection problems in an opaque asset market segment. At the core of the detrimental feedback loop is investors’ desire to reduce their reliance on the distressed opaque market by decreasing their leverage which in turn amplifies adverse selection in the opaque market segment. In the extreme, trade in the opaque asset market segment breaks down. I find that adverse selection is at the root of two inefficiencies: it distorts both investors’ long-term leverage choices and investors’ short-term liquidity management. I derive implications for central bank policy and highlight the ambiguous role played by transparency. (JEL D82, E58, G01, G20)