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Bankruptcy Law and the Cost of Credit: The Impact of Cramdown on Mortgage Interest Rates

25 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2012 Last revised: 19 Nov 2013

Joshua Goodman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Adam J. Levitin

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: October 4, 2013

Abstract

Recent proposals to address housing market troubles through principal modification raise the possibility that such policies could increase the cost of credit in the mortgage market. We explore this using historical variation in federal judicial rulings regarding whether Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers could reduce the principal owed on a home loan to the home’s market value. The practice, known as cramdown, was definitively prohibited by the Supreme Court in 1993. We find evidence that home loans closed during the time when cramdown was allowed had interest rates 12-16 basis points higher than loans closed in the same state when cramdown was not allowed, which translates to a roughly one percent increase in monthly payments. Consistent with the theory that lenders are pricing in the risk of principal modification, interest rate increases are higher for the riskiest borrowers and zero for the least risky, as well as higher in states where Chapter 13 filing is more common.

Keywords: bankruptcy law, cramdown, housing

JEL Classification: K35, R3

Suggested Citation

Goodman, Joshua and Levitin, Adam J., Bankruptcy Law and the Cost of Credit: The Impact of Cramdown on Mortgage Interest Rates (October 4, 2013). Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 57, No. 1, 2014; HKS Working Paper No. RWP12-037; Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-036. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2128841 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2128841

Joshua Goodman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/joshua-goodman/

Adam J. Levitin

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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