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Interbank Networks in the Shadows of the Federal Reserve Act

contagion and resiliencefinancial networksinterventions and regulations in networksR&Rstrategic network formationWorking papers
with Haelim Anderson, Guillermo Ordoñez
Revise and resubmit, Review of Economic Studies
Year: 2022

Central banks provide public liquidity (through lending facilities and promises of bailouts) with the intent to stabilize the financial system. Even though this provision is restricted to member (regulated) banks, an interbank system can provide indirect access to nonmember (shadow) banks. We construct a model to understand how a banking network may change in the presence of central bank interventions and how those changes affect financial fragility. We provide evidence showing that the introduction of the Fed’s liquidity provision in 1913 increased systemic risk through three channels; it reduced aggregate liquidity, created a new source of financial contagion, and crowded out private insurance for smoothing cross-regional liquidity shocks (manifested through the geographic concentration of networks).

Best paper on financial institutions, Western Finance Association, 2020, sponsored by Elsevier

Recent regulations in the U.S. and Europe incentivize the use of central counterparty clearing houses (CCP) to clear derivatives, arguably to create a less complex and more transparent interbank network that is less prone to financial instabilities. We construct a network model with endogenous exposures and show that the core and the periphery react asymmetrically to these regulations. The core values opacity more and adopts clearing less. Consequently, bilaterally netted exposures to the core increase. The regulation also makes the CCP more exposed to the core than the periphery was pre-regulation. This endogenous network reaction to the regulation creates the unanticipated effect of reducing financial stability through more frequent coordination failures that start at the core and spread to the periphery and the CCP. A novel dataset on U.S. counterparty exposures, before and after the regulations, confirm the model’s testable implications.

Insider Networks

How do insiders respond to regulatory oversight? History suggests that they form sophisticated networks to share information and circumvent regulation. We develop a theory of the formation and regulation of information transmission networks. We show that agents with sufficiently complex networks bypass any given regulatory environment. In response, regulators employ broad regulatory boundaries to combat gaming, giving rise to regulatory ambiguity. Tighter regulation induces agents to migrate transmission activity from existing social networks to a core-periphery insider network. A small group of agents endogenously arise as intermediaries for the bulk of information. We provide centrality measures that identify intermediaries.

This paper studies a model of firms with endogenous bilateral exposures and government bailouts. It is shown that the anticipation of bailouts makes firms less concerned with the counterparty choices of their counterparties. This “network hazard” gives rise to large central firms. Bailouts can mitigate contagion but they can not restore output losses. Consequently, idiosyncratic bad shocks to large central firms generate large welfare losses. As such, bailouts create welfare volatility and systemic risk. Surprisingly, moral hazard on risk-return dimension is mitigated by bailouts. Ex-ante regulations can induce discontinuous changes in the network.

Best job market paper runner-up prize, Finance Theory Group, 2016

Stability Pass-through to Shadow Banking

During the 1920-1921 recession, the Richmond Fed provided liquidity to its member banks to prevent a banking crisis. Using newly digitized data on interbank borrowing and deposits for Virginia state banks, we analyze how the Richmond Fed’s liquidity provision affected the interactions between the funding role and the payment role of the interbank system and financial stability. We show that the Richmond Fed’s liquidity provision enabled members to lend discount window liquidity to nonmembers that experienced large deposit outflows and prevented the mass withdrawal of interbank deposits. Interestingly, the banks with interbank borrowing reduced interbank deposits placed in lending banks, implying that these correspondents provided liquidity to nonmembers through both interbank loans and deposits. Our study shows that understanding the interaction between different types of networks is important to promote the stability of the banking system.

Network Formation and Systemic Risk

contagion and resiliencefinancial networksPublished papersstrategic network formation
with Rakesh V. Vohra
European Economic Review, 148: 104213
Year: 2022

This paper introduces a model of endogenous network formation and systemic risk. In it, firms form joint ventures called ‘links’ which are subsequently subjected to either good or bad shocks. Bad shocks incentivize default. Links yield full benefits only if the counter-party does not subsequently default on the project. Accordingly, defaults triggered by bad shocks render firms insolvent and defaults propagate via links. The model yields three insights. First, stable networks with ex-ante identical agents exhibit a core–periphery structure. Second, an increase in the probability of good shocks increases systemic risk. Third, because the network formed depends on the correlation between shocks to links, an observer who misconceives the correlation will underestimate the probability of system-wide default by a factor of a half.

Network Reactions to Banking Regulations

contagion and resiliencefinancial networksinterventions and regulations in networksPublished papersstrategic network formation
with Guillermo Ordoñez
Journal of Monetary Economics, 89: 51-67, 2017
Year: 2017

Optimal regulatory restrictions on banks have to solve a delicate balance. Tighter regulations reduce the likelihood of banks’ distress. Looser regulations foster the allocation of funds toward productive investments. With multiple banks, optimal regulation becomes even more challenging. Banks form partnerships in the interbank lending market in order to face liquidity needs and to meet investment possibilities. We show that the interbank network can suddenly collapse when regulations are pushed beyond a critical level, with a discontinuous increase in systemic risk as the cross-insurance of banks collapses.