- Center for Financial Studies (CFS) (10) (remove)
- Did fair-value accounting contribute to the financial crisis? (2009)
- The recent financial crisis has led to a major debate about fair-value accounting. Many critics have argued that fair-value accounting, often also called mark-to-market accounting, has significantly contributed to the financial crisis or, at least, exacerbated its severity. In this paper, we assess these arguments and examine the role of fair-value accounting in the financial crisis using descriptive data and empirical evidence. Based on our analysis, it is unlikely that fair-value accounting added to the severity of the current financial crisis in a major way. While there may have been downward spirals or asset-fire sales in certain markets, we find little evidence that these effects are the result of fair-value accounting. We also find little support for claims that fair-value accounting leads to excessive write-downs of banks’ assets. If anything, empirical evidence to date points in the opposite direction, that is, towards overvaluation of bank assets. JEL-Classifications: G14, G15, G30, K22, M41, M42 Key Words: Mark-to-Market Accounting, Financial Institutions, Liquidity, Financial Crisis, Banks, Financial Regulation, Procyclicality, Contagion.
- Tying lending and underwriting : scope economies, incentives, and reputation (2006)
- Informational economies of scope between lending and underwriting are a mixed blessing for universal banks. While they can reduce the cost of raising capital for a firm, they also reduce incentives in the underwriting business. We show that tying lending and underwriting helps to overcome this dilemma. First, risky debt in tied deals works as a bond to increase underwriting incentives. Second, with limitations on contracting, tying reduces the underwriting rents as the additional incentives from debt can substitute for monetary incentives. In addition, reducing the yield on the tied debt is a means to pay for the rent in the underwriting business and to transfer informational benefits to the client. Thus, tying is a double edged sword for universal banks. It helps to compete against specialized investment banks, but it can reduce the rent to be earned in investment banking when universal banks compete against each other. We derive several empirical predictions regarding the characteristics of tied deals. JEL Classification: G21, G24, D49
- Mutual versus stock insurers : fair premium, capital and solvency (2006)
- Mutual insurance companies and stock insurance companies are different forms of organized risk sharing: policyholders and owners are two distinct groups in a stock insurer, while they are one and the same in a mutual. This distinction is relevant to raising capital, selling policies, and sharing risk in the presence of financial distress. Up-front capital is necessary for a stock insurer to offer insurance at a fair premium, but not for a mutual. In the presence of an ownermanager conflict, holding capital is costly. Free-rider and commitment problems limit the degree of capitalization that a stock insurer can obtain. The mutual form, by tying sales of policies to the provision of capital, can overcome these problems at the potential cost of less diversified owners. JEL Classification: G22, G32
- ART versus reinsurance : the disciplining effect of information insensitivity (2005)
- We provide a novel benefit of "Alternative Risk Transfer" (ART) products with parametric or index triggers. When a reinsurer has private information about his client's risk, outside reinsurers will price their reinsurance offer less aggressively. Outsiders are subject to adverse selection as only a high-risk insurer might find it optimal to change reinsurers. This creates a hold-up problem that allows the incumbent to extract an information rent. An information-insensitive ART product with a parametric or index trigger is not subject to adverse selection. It can therefore be used to compete against an informed reinsurer, thereby reducing the premium that a low-risk insurer has to pay for the indemnity contract. However, ART products exhibit an interesting fate in our model as they are useful, but not used in equilibrium because of basis-risk. Klassifikation: D82, G22
- Initial public offerings and venture capital in Germany (2003)
- We present a survey on the role of initial public offerings (Epos) and venture capital (VC) in Germany after the Second World War. Between 1945 and 1983 IPOs hardly played a role at all and only a minor role thereafter. In addition, companies that chose an IPO were much older and larger than the average companies going public for the first time in the US or the UK. The level of IPO underpricing in Germany, in contrast, has not been fundamentally different from that in other countries. The picture for venture capital financing is not much different from that provided by IPOs in Germany. For a long time venture capital financing was hardly significant, particularly as a source of early stage financing. The unprecedented boom on the Neuer Markt between 1997 and 2000, when many small venture capital financed firms entered the market, provides a striking contrast to the preceding era. However, by US standards, the levels of both IPO and venture capital activities remained rather low even in this boom phase. The extent to which recent developments will have a lasting impact on the financing of German firms, the level of IPO activity, and venture capital financing, remains to be seen. At the time of writing, activity has come to a near stand still and the Neuer Markt has just been dissolved. The low number of IPOs and the fairly low volume of VC financing in Germany before the introduction of the Neuer Markt are a striking and much debated phenomenon. Understanding the reasons for these apparent peculiarities is vital to understanding the German financial system. The potential explanations that have been put forward range from differentces in mentality to legal and institutional impediments and the availability of alternative sources of financing. Moreover the recent literature discusses how interest groups may have benefited and influenced the situation. These groups include politicians, unions/workers, managers/controlling-owners of established firms as well as banks. Klassifikation: G10, G24, G14. Revised version forthcoming in "The German Financial System", edited by Jan P. Krahnen and Reinhard H. Schmidt, Oxford University Press.
- Corporate insurance design with multiple risks and moral hazard (2008)
- The paper provides novel insights on the effect of a firm’s risk management objective on the optimal design of risk transfer instruments. I analyze the interrelation between the structure of the optimal insurance contract and the firm’s objective to minimize the required equity it has to hold to accommodate losses in the presence of multiple risks and moral hazard. In contrast to the case of risk aversion and moral hazard, the optimal insurance contract involves a joint deductible on aggregate losses in the present setting. JEL Classification: G22, D82
- The crisis of fair value accounting : making sense of the recent debate (2009)
- The recent financial crisis has led to a vigorous debate about the pros and cons of fair-value accounting (FVA). This debate presents a major challenge for FVA going forward and standard setters’ push to extend FVA into other areas. In this article, we highlight four important issues as an attempt to make sense of the debate. First, much of the controversy results from confusion about what is new and different about FVA. Second, while there are legitimate concerns about marking to market (or pure FVA) in times of financial crisis, it is less clear that these problems apply to FVA as stipulated by the accounting standards, be it IFRS or U.S. GAAP. Third, historical cost accounting (HCA) is unlikely to be the remedy. There are a number of concerns about HCA as well and these problems could be larger than those with FVA. Fourth, although it is difficult to fault the FVA standards per se, implementation issues are a potential concern, especially with respect to litigation. Finally, we identify several avenues for future research. JEL Classification: G14, G15, G30, K22, M41, M42
- Insuring non-verifiable losses (2011)
- Insurance contracts are often complex and difficult to verify outside the insurance relation. We show that standard one-period insurance policies with an upper limit and a deductible are the optimal incentive-compatible contracts in a competitive market with repeated interaction. Optimal group insurance policies involve a joint upper limit but individual deductibles and insurance brokers can play a role implementing such contracts for the group of clients. Our model provides new insights and predictions about the determinants of insurance.
- On the role of the liquidity premium in the regulation of insurers (2011)
- Prepared by Christian Laux, Vienna University of Economics and Business & Center for Financial Studies (CFS) for the “Workshop on Liquidity Premium in Solvency II: Conceptual and Measurement Issues,” DNB Amsterdam, March 18, 2011. The insurance industry and the Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pension Supervisors (CEIOPS) propose to add a liquidity premium to the risk-free rate when discounting liabilities in times of financial turmoil. The objective is to counterbalance adverse effects on regulatory capital due to a decrease in asset values caused by illiquidity in a crisis. As I argue in this note, although the motive might be sensible, the proposal to add a liquidity premium when discounting liabilities is not the right approach to tackle the problem.
- Disclosure, transparency, and market discipline (2011)
- The aim of this paper is to examine what has been the role of information provision to the market throughout the crisis. We consider two main sources of information to the market, financial statements and information provided by credit rating agencies. We examine how these sources of information work and the effectiveness of their disclosure process during the crisis. Contrary to the commonly held view, fair value accounting did not have a major impact on the crisis development and severity. However, the structure and lack of accountability of credit rating agencies had a profound impact on their incentives, which may have jeopardized the accuracy of the whole rating process. We claim that the crisis experience has changed the way we think about information as well as market discipline and discuss policy implications and proposals for regulation. JEL Classification: G01, G24, G28, M41, M48 Keywords: Mark-to-Market, Fair-Value Accounting, Credit Rating Agencies, Financial Crisis, Regulation, Financial Institutions, Banks