Regulating Financial Conglomerates
UPF Economics and Business Working Paper 820
30 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2005
Date Written: March 2005
We investigate the optimal regulation of financial conglomerates which combine a bank and a non-bank financial institution. The conglomerate's risk-taking incentives depend upon the level of market discipline it faces, which in turn is determined by the conglomerate's liability strucure. We examine optimal capital requirements for standalone institutions, for integrated financial conglomerates, and for financial conglomerates that are structured as holding companies. For a given risk profile, integrated conglomerates have a lower probability of failure than either their standalone or decentralised equivalent. However, when risk profiles are endogenously selected conglomeration may extend the reach of the deposit insurance safetynet and hence provide incentives for increased risk-taking. As a result, integrated conglomerates may optimally attract higher capital requirements. In contrast, decentralised conglomerates are able to hold assets in the socially most efficient place. Their optimal capital requirements encourage this. Hence, the practice of 'regulatory arbitrage', or of transfering assets from one balance sheet to another, is welfare-increasing. We discuss the policy implications of our finding in the context not only of the present debate on the regulation of financial conglomerates but also in the light of existing US bank holding company regulation.
Keywords: Financial conglomerate, capital regulation, regulatory arbitrage
JEL Classification: G21, G22, G28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation