How (Un-)Informed Are Depositors in a Banking Panic? A Lesson from History
How informed or uninformed are bank depositors in a banking crisis? Can depositors anticipate which banks will fail? Understanding the behavior of depositors in financial crises is key to evaluating the policy measures, such as deposit insurance, designed to prevent them. But this is difficult in modern settings. The fact that bank runs are rare and deposit insurance universal implies that it is rare to be able to observe how depositors would behave in absence of the policy. Hence, as empiricists, we are lacking the counterfactual of depositor behavior during a run that is undistorted by the policy. In this blog post and the staff report on which it is based, we go back in history and study a bank run that took place in Germany in 1931 in the absence of deposit insurance for insight.
The Value of Opacity in a Banking Crisis
During crisis periods, we often observe regulators limiting access to bank‑level information with the goal of restoring the public’s confidence in banks. Thus, information management often plays a central role in ending financial crises. Despite the perceived importance of managing information about individual banks during a financial crisis, we are not aware of any empirical work that quantifies the effect of such policies. In this blog post, we highlight results from our recent working paper, demonstrating that in a crisis, a policy of suppressing information about banks’ balance sheets has a significant and positive effect on deposits.
“Skin in the Game,” Depositor Discipline, and Bank Risk Taking
In a previous post, we argued that double liability for bank owners might not limit their risk taking, despite the extra “skin in the game,” if it also weakens depositor discipline of banks. This post, drawing on our recent working paper, looks at the interplay of those opposing forces in the late 1920s when bank liability differed across states. We find that double liability may have reduced the outflow of deposits during the crisis, but wasn’t successful in mitigating bank risk during the boom.
Just Released: Chairman Bernanke Returns to His Academic Roots
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is back in the classroom this month to deliver a series of four lectures for undergraduate students at the George Washington School of Business in Washington, D.C.
Commodity Prices and the Mistake of 1937: Would Modern Economists Make the Same Mistake?
In 1937, on the eve of a major policy mistake, U.S. economic conditions were surprisingly similar to those in the nation today. Consider, for example, the following summary of economic conditions: (1) Signs indicate that the recession is finally over. (2) Short-term interest rates have been close to zero for years but are now expected to rise. (3) Some are concerned about excessive inflation. (4) Inflation concerns are partly driven by a large expansion in the monetary base in recent years and by banks’ massive holding of excess reserves. (5) Furthermore, some are worried that the recent rally in commodity prices threatens to ignite an inflation spiral.