Whether Greece stays in the Eurozone and accepts its bitter medicine or is one day forced to exit the single currency, the country’s future is usually regarded as bleak. Either course seems to promise years of hardship and privation for the Greek people.
From another perspective, though, one could see opportunity for Greece. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, who knew something about crises. Greece today has a chance to turn adversity into advantage. With change in the air, it will be easier for the country’s institutions, government leaders, and people to abandon some of the failed approaches of the past and to embark in new directions.
During the financial crisis and its aftermath, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) sold nearly 500 failed banks in the United States.
These hurried sales of institutions seized by the agency reverberated throughout local and regional economies and had serious consequences nationally. The FDIC lost US$90 billion in the deals, and at the height of the crisis in 2009, the agency’s deposit insurance fund was $21 billion underwater.
I have been exploring this extraordinary episode in US banking history with two other researchers, Gregor Matvos and Amit Seru, both of the University of Chicago. We wanted to find out what happened to banks when they were sold, who bought them and why, and what the implications might be for public policy. To do this, we compiled information on all FDIC bank sales from 2007 to 2013 and analyzed the data using probability models and other methods.
More broadly, our study focused on understanding the nature and efficiency of allocation outcomes when failed assets are sold. These findings have direct implications for the design of the bank resolution process – how to deal with the death of a financial firm – an issue that is confronting policymakers and researchers both in the US and the EU.
In this study, we tried to understand the costs associated with failed bank sales in the US. We hope that these facts will help policymakers to weigh the costs of selling banks against the costs of supporting them outright during future financial crises. Understanding these trade-offs should help policymakers reduce the taxpayer costs associated with reorganizing a banking system in distress.
Interdependency between banks, insurers and countries through financial instruments was a factor blamed for the financial crisis. Now, academics are trying to measure it. Bob Merton, professor of finance at MIT Sloan, explains to John Authers that credit seems even more interconnected now.
Robert C. Merton is the School of Management Distinguished Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Academic studies have shown that over the past few decades, public firms are increasingly holding large amounts of cash. Curiously, much of this build up in cash savings can be attributed to cash saved from seasoned share issues, which are sales of equity by already public companies.
I examined the share-issuance cash savings of a large number of U.S. firms over a 38-year period. In the 1970s, $1.00 of issuance resulted in $0.23 of cash savings, yet in more recent years, that same $1.00 of issuance resulted in $0.60 of savings. Over my sample period, the amount of cash saved from share issuance increased at an average rate of 2.5% per year.
So what is going on here? My initial reaction was that the firms were issuing shares because their stock was mispriced, thereby taking advantage of naive investors. However, after digging deeper, I found that this was most likely not the case. It turns out that there are good economic reasons for firms to hold onto cash and even to issue shares for the purpose of cash savings.
Consider an emerging pharmaceutical company with a promising pipeline of projects. The company is still early in its lifecycle so its profits are marginal and its cash flows are volatile. The company spends a large amount on R&D and plans to continue doing so in the future. Because the company generates little cash flow, it depends on capital markets to finance its R&D spending.
S.P. Kothari, deputy dean at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a former Barclays fund manager, talks about what investors should look for in choosing an investment adviser to steer them through these turbulent markets.