Monday, January 3, 2011

Unraveling of loan maturities: inefficiency in borrowing and lending

The Maturity Rat Race by Markus K. Brunnermeier and Martin Oehmke

Abstract: "We develop a model of endogenous maturity structure for financial institutions that borrow from multiple creditors. We show that a maturity rat race can occur: an individual creditor can have an incentive to shorten the maturity of his own loan to the institution, allowing him to adjust his financing terms or pull out before other creditors can. This, in turn, causes all other lenders to shorten their maturity as well, leading to excessively short-term financing. This rat race occurs when interim information is mostly about the probability of default rather than the recovery in default, and is most pronounced during volatile periods and crises. Overall, firms are exposed to unnecessary rollover risk."

The paper goes on to note:

"The maturity rat race is inefficient. It leads to excessive rollover risk and causes inefficient liquidation of the long-term investment project after negative interim information. Moreover, because creditors anticipate the costly liquidations that occur when rolling over short-term debt is not possible, some positive NPV projects do not get started in the first place. This inefficiency stands in contrast to some of the leading existing theories of maturity mismatch.

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