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Did Board Configuration Matter? The Case of US Subprime Lenders

Corporate Governance: An International Review, Forthcoming

Posted: 10 May 2011 Last revised: 26 Oct 2013

Maureen I. Muller-Kahle

The Pennsylvania State University

Krista B. Lewellyn


Date Written: May 8, 2011


Research Question/Issue: The origins of the global financial crisis have been attributed to the combination of a housing price bubble, innovative financial instruments as well as the lack of restraint by corporate executives and boards to engage in excessive risk-taking. The rise in subprime lending between 1997 and 2005 played a crucial role in inflating the housing price bubble. We take a unique dataset of US financial institutions heavily engaged in subprime lending and ask the following research question: Did board configuration play a role in determining whether a financial institution specialized in subprime lending?

Research Findings/Insights: We use a matched-pair sample of firms in the financial industry from 1997-2005 with half of the sample specializing in subprime lending and conduct panel data logistic regression analysis. We find that the board configurations of those financial institutions that engaged in subprime lending were significantly different from those that did not. Specifically, subprime lenders had boards that were busier, had less tenure and were less diverse with respect to gender.

Theoretical/Academic Implications: This study uses the group decision making perspective in the context of subprime lending to examine board of director configuration and its influence on decision making processes around the issue of risky subprime lending. Findings show that how boards were configured did influence the decision to specialize in subprime lending. We find robust support for predictions based on the group decision making perspective.

Practitioner/Policy Implications: The deterioration of mortgage lending requirements that gave rise to the defaults of so many subprime loans, in retrospect, appears to be something that should have been entirely preventable. By demonstrating that subprime specialists had significant differences in board configuration which impacted group decision making, this study offers guidance to policymakers considering additional regulation and for corporate officers examining corporate governance issues.

Keywords: Corporate Governance, Subprime Lending, Group Decision Making, Board of Directors, Board Busyness, Board Gender Diversity, Board Tenure

Suggested Citation

Muller-Kahle, Maureen I. and Lewellyn, Krista B., Did Board Configuration Matter? The Case of US Subprime Lenders (May 8, 2011). Corporate Governance: An International Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Maureen I. Muller-Kahle (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University ( email )

United States

Krista B. Lewellyn

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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