Economic Policy Review
What Makes Large Bank Failures So Messy and What to Do about It?
2014   Volume 20, Number 2    
JEL classification: G20, G28, G01

Authors: James McAndrews, Donald P. Morgan, João Santos, and Tanju Yorulmazer

We argue that the defining feature of large and complex banks that makes their failures messy is their reliance on runnable financial liabilities that confer liquidity or money-like services that may be impaired or destroyed in bankruptcy. To make large bank failures more orderly, we advocate that systemically important bank holding companies be required to issue
“bail-in-able” long-term debt that converts to equity in resolution. This reassures holders of uninsured liabilities that their claims will be honored in resolution, making them less likely to run. In a novel finding, we show that bail-in-able debt and equity are not perfect substitutes in terms of stemming bank runs. Finally, we argue that the long-term debt requirement should be increasing in the amount of uninsured financial liabilities the bank has issued. This has the advantage of tying the requirement to the sources of messy failures, and it tends to internalize the externalities associated with the issuance of uninsured financial liabilities.

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