Abstract: We study optimal bank leverage and recapitalization in general equilibrium when the supply of specialized investment capital is imperfectly elastic. Assuming incomplete insurance against capital shortfalls and segmented financial markets, ex-ante leverage is inefficiently high, leading to excessive insolvencies during systemic capital shortfall events. Recapitalizations by equity issuance are individually and socially optimal. Additional frictions can turn asset sales individually but not necessarily socially optimal. Our results hold for different bankruptcy protocols and we offer testable predictions for banks’ capital structure management. Our model provides a rationale for macroprudential capital regulation that does not require moral hazard or informational asymmetries. (D5, D6, G21, G28)
Both the academic literature and the policy debate on systematic bailout guarantees and Government subsidies have ignored an important effect: in industries where firms may go out of business due to idiosyncratic shocks, Governments may increase the likelihood of (tacit) coordination if they set up schemes that rescue failing firms. In a repeated-game setting, we show that a systematic bailout regime increases the expected profits from coordination and simultaneously raises the probability that competitors will remain in business and will thus be able to ’punish’ firms that deviate from coordinated behaviour. These effects make tacit coordination easier to sustain and have a detrimental impact on welfare. While the key insight holds across any industry, we study this question with an application to the banking sector, in light of the recent financial crisis and the extensive use of bailout schemes.