Corruption, Political Connections, and Municipal Finance
48 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2007 Last revised: 29 Aug 2008
Date Written: August 25, 2008
We exploit unique features of the U.S. municipal bond underwriting market to assess how political integrity affects primary financial market outcomes. We show that state corruption and political connections have strong effects on several aspects of municipal bond sales and underwriting. Specifically, we find that higher state corruption is associated with greater credit risk, higher bond yields, greater use of external credit enhancement, and use of lower quality underwriters. States that are more corrupt can eliminate the corruption yield penalty by purchasing credit enhancements, effectively selling integrity-related default risk to an independent financial intermediary. Underwriting fees do not vary with cross-state corruption, but were significantly higher during an era when under writers routinely made political campaign contributions to win underwriting business. Furthermore, this pay-to-play underwriting fee premium exists only for negotiated bid bonds where underwriting business can be allocated on the basis of political favoritism. Overall, our results show a strong impact of state corruption and political connections on economic and financial outcomes.
Keywords: Political integrity, Corruption, Pay to play, Municipal finance
JEL Classification: D73, G20, G22, G24, H74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation