Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Critical Evaluation of Bail-in as a Bank Recapitalisation Mechanism

Many of the world’s developed economies have introduced, or are planning to introduce, bank bail-in regimes. Both the planned EU resolution regime and the European Stability Mechanism Treaty involve the participation of bank creditors in bearing the costs of bank recapitalization via the bail-in process as one of the (main) mechanisms for restoring a failing bank to health. There is a long list of actual or hypothetical advantages attached to bail-in centred bank recapitalizations. Most importantly the bail-in tool involves replacing the implicit public guarantee, on which fractional reserve banking has operated, with a system of private penalties. The bail-in tool may, indeed, be much superior in the case of idiosyncratic failure. Nonetheless, there is need for a closer examination of the bail-in process, if it is to become a successful substitute to the unpopular bailout approach. This paper discusses some of its key potential shortcomings. It explains why bail-in regimes will fail to eradicate the need for an injection of public funds where there is a threat of systemic collapse, because a number of banks have simultaneously entered into difficulties, or in the event of the failure of a large complex cross-border bank, except in those cases where failure was clearly idiosyncratic.

The paper was published with the Centre for Economic Policy Research, and can be found here.

Emilios Avgouleas, School of Law, University of Edinburgh

Charles A Goodhart, Financial Markets Group, LSE

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