Bankruptcy 2.0 versus Bailouts

Kenneth Ayotte & David A. Skeel, Jr., Bankruptcy or Bailouts?, 35 J. Corp. L. 469 (2010), available at SSRN. Sarah Woo As we try to learn the right lessons from the 2008 financial crisis, a debate has emerged as to the merits of bailouts versus bankruptcy. Although the chaotic days when Lehman and AIG were failing are starting to fade into financial history, ongoing news on European bailouts reminds us that this debate is still very much alive. Bankruptcy or Bailouts by Kenneth Ayotte and David Skeel, provides an excellent Law and Finance discussion that unpacks the key issues of moral hazard underlying rescues of financial institutions and the systemic risk considerations. They identify cases where bankruptcy has been surprisingly effective, discuss how it avoids various distortions resulting from bailouts, and challenges the common view that Chapter 11 bankruptcy is an inappropriate vehicle for resolving distress in financial institutions. This article confronts head-on the difficulties in this area – the difficult choices for policymakers, and the difficulty in establishing causality between past events (e.g., the Lehman filing and the AIG bailout) and the volatility and illiquidity in the market. As Ayotte and Skeel remarked, questions such as whether a Lehman rescue loan could have reduced the severity of the financial crisis that followed are "impossible to answer with certainty." (P. 490.) They then proceed to present some data, which provides us reason to be skeptical about the conventional wisdom that Lehman's Chapter 11 filing was the singular cause of the resulting credit crunch. Continue reading "Bankruptcy 2.0 versus Bailouts"

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