Staff Reports
Bailouts and Financial Fragility
September 2010  Number 473
Revised July 2012
JEL classification: E61, G21, G28

Author: Todd Keister

Should policymakers be prevented from bailing out investors in the event of a crisis? I study this question in a model of financial intermediation with limited commitment. When a crisis occurs, the efficient policy response is to use public resources to augment the private consumption of those investors facing losses. The anticipation of such a "bailout" distorts ex ante incentives, leading intermediaries to choose arrangements with excessive illiquidity and thereby increasing financial fragility. Prohibiting bailouts is not necessarily desirable, however: it induces intermediaries to become too liquid from a social point of view and may, in addition, leave the economy more susceptible to a crisis. A policy of taxing short-term liabilities, in contrast, can both improve the allocation of resources and promote financial stability.

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