Retrenchment Strategy

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Vulnerable Banks
Published:| December 10, 2012|
Paper Released:| November 2012|
Authors:| Robin Greenwood, Augustin Landier, and David Thesmar| * E-Mail
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Executive Summary:
Since the beginning of the US financial crisis in 2007, regulators in the United States and Europe have been frustrated by the difficulty in identifying the risk exposures at the largest and most levered financial institutions. Yet, at the time, it was unclear how such data might have been used to make the financial system safer. This paper is an attempt to show simple ways in which this information can be used to understand how deleveraging scenarios could play out. To do so the authors develop and test a model to analyze financial sector stability under different configurations of leverage and risk exposure across banks. They then apply the model to the largest financial institutions in Europe, focusing on banks' exposure to sovereign bonds and using the model to evaluate a number of policy proposals to reduce systemic risk. When analyzing the European banks in 2011, they show how a policy of targeted equity injections, if distributed appropriately across the most systemic banks, can significantly reduce systemic risk. The approach in this paper fits into, and contributes to, a growing literature on systemic risk. Key concepts include: * This model can simulate the outcome of various policies to reduce fire sale spillovers in the midst of a crisis. * Size caps, or forced mergers among the most exposed banks, do not reduce systemic risk very much. * However, modest equity injections, if distributed appropriately between the most systemic banks, can cut the vulnerability of the banking sector to deleveraging by more than half. * The model can be adapted to monitor vulnerability on a dynamic basis using factor exposures. About Faculty in this Article:

Robin Greenwood is a Professor in the Finance unit at Harvard Business School. *...
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