Minimum Asset Requirements

20 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2002

See all articles by Steven Shavell

Steven Shavell

Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2002


Requirements that parties have assets of at least a minimum level in order to participate in an activity are frequently imposed. A principal rationale for minimum asset requirements is considered in this article - potential injurers have stronger incentives to prevent harm, or not to engage in harmful activities, provided that they have at least the required level of assets at stake if they are sued for causing harm. The optimal minimum asset requirement generally reflects a tradeoff between this advantage and the disadvantage that some parties with assets below a required level ought to engage in the activity (because the benefits they would obtain exceed the expected harm they would cause). Additionally, it is emphasized that minimum asset requirements are socially desirable only when the victims of harm are not customers of firms. When victims of harm are customers of firms, minimum asset requirements are socially undesirable.

JEL Classification: G28, K13, K20, L51

Suggested Citation

Shavell, Steven, Minimum Asset Requirements (November 2002). Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 389. Available at SSRN: or

Steven Shavell (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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