Busy Bankruptcy Courts and the Cost of Credit
86 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2017 Last revised: 25 May 2019
Date Written: May 20, 2019
How large are the welfare losses from inefficient debt enforcement? This paper studies the 2005 consumer bankruptcy reform, which generated the largest recorded drop in the caseload of bankruptcy courts in the United States. The law fundamentally changed individual bankruptcies but left corporate filings unaffected. This allows me to quantify the effect of debt enforcement on firms’ loan terms, holding the legal framework constant. I find that lower court congestion is priced into credit spreads and loan maturities, particularly for risky firms. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests substantial welfare losses of court backlog and high implied fiscal multipliers for additional judgeships.
Keywords: bankruptcy, courts, debt enforcement, law and finance
JEL Classification: G21, G32, G33, K22, K42.
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