Matching Bankruptcy Laws to Legal Environments
Northwestern University School of Law
University of Notre Dame
February 16, 2006
We study a model of optimal bankruptcy law in an environment where legal quality can vary along two dimensions: the ability of judges, and the quality of contract enforcement. We analyze a model in which a judicially-influenced bankruptcy process can enhance the efficiency of incomplete contracts by conditioning the allocation of control rights in bankruptcy on firm quality. We consider the optimal balance of debtor and creditor interests as a function of the legal environment, and show that the optimal degree of "creditor-friendliness" in the bankruptcy code increases as judicial ability to recognize firm quality falls and as the quality of contract enforcement deteriorates. Our model contributes to the existing bankruptcy law design literature in demonstrating that a "debtor-friendly" law that focuses on preserving going-concern value, such as U.S. Chapter 11, requires judicial expertise to be effective. Where such expertise is unavailable, a law that focuses more on creditor recovery is preferred. Our model is also able to explain cross-country patterns in the content and usage of bankruptcy laws around the world as reported in existing empirical research.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: Bankruptcy, investor protection, law and finance
JEL Classification: G33, G38, K00working papers series
Date posted: November 4, 2004
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