Private Debt as Shadow Money? Conceptual Criteria, Empirical Evaluation and Implications for Financial Stability

26 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2022

See all articles by Steffen Murau

Steffen Murau

Boston University - Global Development Policy Center; Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)

Tobias Pforr

European University Institute

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

Some scholars have labeled the financial structures that faced a run during the 2007-9 Financial Crisis as ‘shadow banking system’ and have connected it to the emergence of new monetary instruments. This was the starting point for thinking about various forms of private debt as ‘shadow money’. Since then several shadow money theories have emerged, with seemingly different conceptualizations of shadow money. We argue that, despite different terminology and intellectual ancestry, these theories generally agree on three key criteria that define shadow money. A financial instrument must be met by a demand that considers it an alternative to established forms of money, has to trade at par to higher-ranking forms of money and must be created through a swap of private debt certificates (IOUs). Based on these criteria, we look at four instruments to discuss how and under what conditions they correspond, or have corresponded, to those criteria. These are money market fund shares, overnight repurchase agreements, asset- backed commercial papers and foreign exchange swaps. We show that the disagreement over what instruments to count as shadow money lies in the level of strictness in applying those criteria on real-world financial instruments. If we are mathematically strict, none of the instruments can be categorized as shadow money. If we allow for more empirical variation, then all of the instruments correspond to the definition.

Keywords: credit money; monetary theory; money market fund shares; asset-backed commercial paper; repurchase agreements; foreign exchange swaps

JEL Classification: E42

Suggested Citation

Murau, Steffen and Pforr, Tobias, Private Debt as Shadow Money? Conceptual Criteria, Empirical Evaluation and Implications for Financial Stability (May 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4264552 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4264552

Steffen Murau (Contact Author)

Boston University - Global Development Policy Center ( email )

53 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) ( email )

Berlinerstrasse 130
Potsdam
Germany

Tobias Pforr

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014
Italy

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