Illiquidity and Financial Crisis

58 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2013

See all articles by Alessio M. Pacces

Alessio M. Pacces

Amsterdam Law School / Amsterdam Business School (ACLE); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); European Banking Institute

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 31, 2012


This article analyzes the determinants of liquidity crises based on the dynamics of banking and finance under Knightian uncertainty. In this perspective, the facts of the global financial crisis seem to confirm Minsky’s hypothesis of endogenous financial instability derived from Keynes’s theory of liquidity and expectations. Conventional expectations allow overcoming uncertainty via the liquidity of secondary markets and, in turn, of banks’ liabilities that are accepted as money. However, the failure of existing conventions precipitates the system into uncertainty-driven liquidity spirals, which are the more dangerous the more private money financial intermediaries have managed to create in the first place. Despite limited availability of data that can proxy for Knightian uncertainty, this approach to liquidity problems may explain better than others how a relatively small shock, such as the default of US subprime mortgages, could trigger a worldwide systemic crisis.

The policy implications of this understanding of illiquidity are twofold. First, financial crises should be policed by tailoring the lender of last resort function of central banks to the creation of private money. By the same token, banking should be defined and regulated according to this monetary function performed by financial intermediaries, whether banks or non-banks. These institutions should face payout restrictions while being prevented from using retained earnings to increase the quantity of private money they can create through their balance sheet.

Second, the corporate governance of banks should allow insulating managers and controlling shareholders from the short-termism of stock markets. Inasmuch as myopic stock markets influence the balance sheet choices of bankers, investor-friendly corporate governance is a major amplifier of liquidity crises. This article thus suggests combining long-term remuneration with the possibility for bank managers to claim a compensation for parting with control. Similar implications are derived for controlling shareholders.

Keywords: uncertainty, financial crisis, expectations, securitization, haircuts, liquidity, lender of last resort, corporate governance, private benefits of control

JEL Classification: D80, G01, G28, G38, K22

Suggested Citation

Pacces, Alessio Maria, Illiquidity and Financial Crisis (October 31, 2012). University of Pittsburgh Law Review, Vol. 74, No. 3, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Alessio Maria Pacces (Contact Author)

Amsterdam Law School / Amsterdam Business School (ACLE) ( email )

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European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

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European Banking Institute ( email )


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