Sensitivity and Computational Complexity in Financial Networks
35 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2020
Date Written: August 24, 2020
Determining the causes of instability and contagion in financial networks is necessary to inform policy and avoid future financial collapse. In the American Economic Review, Elliott, Golub and Jackson proposed a simple model for capturing the dynamics of complex financial networks. In Elliott, Golub and Jackson’s model, the institutions in the network are connected by linear dependencies (cross-holdings) and if any institution’s value drops below a critical threshold, its value suffers an additional failure cost. This work shows that even in this simple model there are fundamental barriers to understanding the risks that are inherent in a network. First, if institutions are not required to maintain a minimum amount of self-holdings, any change in investments by a single institution can have an arbitrarily magnified influence on the net worth of the institutions in the system. This implies that if institutions have small selfholdings, then estimating the market value of an institution requires almost perfect information about every cross-holding in the system. Second, even if a regulator has complete information about all cross-holdings in the system, it may be computationally intractable to estimate the number of failures that could be caused by a small shock to the system.
Keywords: Financial Contagion; Computational Complexity; Network Analysis; Network Stability; Sensitivity
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