Government Debt, Reputation and Creditors' Protections: The Tale of San Giorgio
Review of Finance, Vol. 10, pp. 487-506, 2006
37 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2007
San Giorgio (1407-1805) was a formal association aimed at protecting creditors' rights and reducing the risk of debt repudiation by the Republic of Genoa. The behavior of this institution is broadly consistent with debt models that predict lending if lenders can impose big penalties on debtors, and models in which lenders can differentiate between excusable and inexcusable defaults. San Giorgio shareholders enjoyed low credit risk but also lower returns on capital than those prevailing on comparable foreign assets for which creditors' protection mechanisms were lacking. The Republic's quid pro quo was a low cost of financing. Differences in credit risk were an important explanation of differences in long-term interest rates across countries in 16th and 17th century Europe, a point not sufficiently emphasized by the literature.
Keywords: Financial revolution, credibility, debt, public bank, Genoa, Venice
JEL Classification: F34, H63, N13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation