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Debt Heterogeneity and Covenants

65 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2013 Last revised: 21 Dec 2017

Yun Lou

Singapore Management University

Clemens A. Otto

Singapore Management University

Date Written: December 21, 2017


Coordination failure among owners of heterogeneous debt types increases distress costs. Covenants reduce expected distress costs by lowering the probability of liquidity shortages, increasing liquidation values, and incentivizing creditor monitoring. We predict and find that new debt contracts include more covenants when borrowers' existing debt structures are more heterogeneous. Our findings suggest that covenants are not only used to address creditor-shareholder conflicts but also to reduce the expected costs of coordination failure among creditors. Further, our results indicate a dynamic component missing from static debt structure models: Debt heterogeneity entails additional covenants (i.e., constraints) when raising future debt.

Keywords: Debt Heterogeneity, Debt Covenants, Creditor Conflicts, Coordination Failure

JEL Classification: G32

Suggested Citation

Lou, Yun and Otto, Clemens A., Debt Heterogeneity and Covenants (December 21, 2017). Paris December 2014 Finance Meeting EUROFIDAI - AFFI Paper; HEC Paris Research Paper No. FIN-2014-1033. Available at SSRN: or

Yun Lou

Singapore Management University ( email )

60 Stamford Road
Singapore 178900

Clemens A. Otto (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University ( email )

Li Ka Shing Library
70 Stamford Road
Singapore 178901, 178899

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