Shareholder Liability and Bank Failure

Publication Date
Financial Markets Group Discussion Papers DP 835
Publication Authors

Does enhanced shareholder liability reduce bank failure? We compare the performance of around 4,200 state-regulated banks of similar size in neighboring U.S. states with different liability regimes during the Great Depression. The distress rate of limited liability banks was 29% higher than that of banks with enhanced liability. Results are robust to a diff-in-diff analysis incorporating nationally-regulated banks (which faced the same regulations everywhere) and are not driven by other differences in state regulations, Fed membership, local characteristics, or differential selection into state-regulated banks. Our results suggest that exposing shareholders to more downside risk can successfully reduce bank failure.