The Capital Structure of Firms Subject to Price Regulation: Evidence from the Insurance Industry
30 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2001
Date Written: June 29, 2001
Automobile and workers' compensation insurance are relatively homogeneous products sold under varying regulatory systems among the states. This paper investigates how price regulation affects the capital structure decisions of profit-maximizing insurers who sell insurance in both competitive and/or regulated markets. Specifically, we test the hypothesis that insurers subject to price regulation will choose to hold less capital. In addition, we hypothesize insurers subject to more stringent regulatory pricing constraints will choose even higher degrees of leverage because the benefits of holding additional amounts of capital are suppressed. We conduct empirical tests using cross-sectional data on insurers and find evidence consistent with both hypotheses. These findings have important implications for insurance price and solvency regulation. Stricter price regulation increases the default risk (i.e., reduces the financial quality) of insurance contracts purchased by individuals and firms.
Keywords: Insurance, price regulation, capital structure
JEL Classification: G22, G32, G38, K23, L51
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