(with E Jiang, G Matvos and T Piskorski), 2023

We analyze U.S. banks’ asset exposure to a recent rise in the interest rates with implications for financial stability. The U.S. banking system’s market value of assets is $2 trillion lower than suggested by their book value of assets accounting for loan portfolios held to maturity. Marked-to-market bank assets have declined by an average of 10% across all the banks, with the bottom 5th percentile experiencing a decline of 20%. We illustrate that uninsured leverage (i.e., Uninsured Debt/Assets) is the key to understanding whether these losses would lead to some banks in the U.S. becoming insolvent– unlike insured depositors, uninsured depositors stand to lose a part of their deposits if the bank fails, potentially giving them incentives to run. A case study of the recently failed Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is illustrative. 10 percent of banks have larger unrecognized losses than those at SVB. Nor was SVB the worst capitalized bank, with 10 percent of banks having lower capitalization than SVB. On the other hand, SVB had a disproportional share of uninsured funding: only 1 percent of banks had higher uninsured leverage. Combined, losses and uninsured leverage provide incentives for an SVB uninsured depositor run. We compute similar incentives for the sample of all U.S. banks. Even if only half of uninsured depositors decide to withdraw, almost 190 banks are at a potential risk of impairment to insured depositors, with potentially $300 billion of insured deposits at risk. If uninsured deposit withdrawals cause even small fire sales, substantially more banks are at risk. Overall, these calculations suggest that recent declines in bank asset values very significantly increased the fragility of the US banking system to uninsured depositor runs.

(with G Buchak, G Matvos and T Piskorski), 2022 (R&R, Journal of Political Economy)

We study the frictions in dealer-intermediation in residential real estate through the lens of “iBuyers,” technology entrants, who purchase and sell residential real estate through online platforms. iBuyers supply liquidity to households by allowing them to avoid a lengthy sale process. They sell houses quickly and earn a 5% spread. Their prices are well explained by a simple hedonic model, consistent with their use of algorithmic pricing. iBuyers choose to intermediate in markets that are liquid and in which automated valuation models have low pricing error. These facts suggest that iBuyers’ speedy offers come at the cost of information loss concerning house attributes that are difficult to capture in an algorithm, resulting in adverse selection. We calibrate a dynamic structural search model with adverse selection to understand the economic forces underlying the tradeoffs of dealer intermediation in this market. The model reveals the central tradeoff to intermediating in residential real estate. To provide valuable liquidity service, transactions must be closed quickly. Yet, the intermediary must also be able to price houses precisely to avoid adverse selection, which is difficult to accomplish quickly. Low underlying liquidity exacerbates adverse selection. Our analysis suggests that iBuyers’ technology provides a middle ground: they can transact quickly limiting information loss. Even with this technology, intermediation is only profitable in the most liquid and easy to value houses. Therefore, iBuyers’ technology allows them to supply liquidity, but only in pockets where it is least valuable. We also find limited scope for dealer intermediation even with improved pricing technology, suggesting that underlying liquidity will be an impediment for intermediation in the future.

(with N Artavanis, D Paravisini, C Robles-Garcia and M Tsoutsoura), 2022 

We develop a new approach to identify different categories of depositors during periods of uncertainty and quantify their compensation to remain in the bank. We isolate withdrawals due to liquidity needs, deterioration of fundamentals, and expectation about withdrawal behavior of other depositors. We exploit variation in the cost of withdrawal induced by the maturity expiration of time deposits around unexpected uncertainty events and high-frequency microdata from a large Greek bank. Deposit withdrawals quadrupled in response to a policy uncertainty shock that doubled the short-run credit default swap (CDS) price of Greek sovereign bonds. About two-thirds of this increase is driven by direct exposure to deteriorating fundamentals, and the remainder due to strategic complementarities. We find that depositors need to be offered annualized returns exceeding 50% to remain in the bank during episodes of high uncertainty. Our findings provide new insights into the design of interventions that prevent runs by targeting depositors with the largest propensity to withdraw.

(with E Jiang, G Matvos and T Piskorski), 2022

Is bank capital structure designed to extract deposit subsidies? We address this question by studying capital structure decisions of shadow banks: intermediaries that provide banking services but are not funded by deposits. We assemble, for the first time, call report data for shadow banks which originate one quarter of all US household debt. We document five facts.

(1) Shadow banks use twice as much equity capital as equivalent banks, but are substantially more leveraged than non-financial firms.

(2) Leverage across shadow banks is substantially more dispersed than leverage across banks.

(3) Like banks, shadow banks finance themselves primarily with short-term debt and originate long-term loans. However, shadow bank debt is provided primarily by informed and concentrated lenders.

(4) Shadow bank leverage increases substantially with size, and the capitalization of the largest shadow banks is similar to banks of comparable size.

(5) Uninsured leverage, defined as uninsured debt funding to assets, increases with size and average interest rates on uninsured debt decline with size for both banks and shadow banks.

Modern shadow bank capital structure choices resemble those of pre-deposit-insurance banks both in the U.S. and Germany, suggesting that the differences in capital structure with modern banks are likely due to banks’ ability to access insured deposits. Our results suggest that banks’ level of capitalization is pinned down by deposit subsidies and capital regulation at the margin, with small banks likely to be largest recipients of deposit subsidies. Models of financial intermediary capital structure then have to simultaneously explain high (uninsured) leverage, which increases with the size of the intermediary, and allow for substantial heterogeneity across capital structures of firms engaged in similar activities. Such models also need to explain high reliance on short-term debt of financial intermediaries.

(with J Liberti and V Vig), 2017. (R&R Journal of Financial Economics)

This paper investigates the effect of a change in informational environment of borrowers on the organizational design of bank lending. We use micro-data from a large multinational bank and exploit the sudden introduction of a credit registry, an information-sharing mechanism across banks, for a subset of borrowers. Using within borrower and loan officer variation in a difference-in-difference empirical design, we show that expansion of credit registry led to an improvement in allocation of credit to affected borrowers. There was a concurrent change in the organizational structure of the bank that involved a dramatic increase in delegation of lending decisions of affected borrowers to loan officers. We also find a significant expansion in scope of activities of loan officers who deal primarily with affected borrowers, as well as of their superiors. There is suggestive evidence that larger banks in the economy were better able to implement similar changes as our bank. We argue that these patterns can be understood within the framework of incentive-based and information cost processing theories. Our findings could help rationalize why improvements in the information environment of borrowers may be altering the landscape of lending by moving decisions outside the boundaries of financial intermediaries.

(with S Agarwal, E Benmelech and N Bergman), 2012. (R&R Journal of Political Economy)

Yes, it did. We use exogenous variation in banks’ incentives to conform to the standards of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) around regulatory exam dates to trace out the effect of the CRA on lending activity. Our empirical strategy compares lending behavior of banks undergoing CRA exams within a given census tract in a given month to the behavior of banks operating in the same census tract-month that do not face these exams. We find that adherence to the act led to riskier lending by banks: in the six quarters surrounding the CRA exams lending is elevated on average by about 5 percent every quarter and loans in these quarters default by about 15 percent more often. These patterns are accentuated in CRA-eligible census tracts and are concentrated among large banks. The effects are strongest during the time period when the market for private securitization was booming.