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Bank Regulations, Capital Structure, and Risk

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The joint influence of the Federal Reserve's (Fed) discount window credit and reserve requirements and FDIC's deposit insurance on a bank's optimal capital structure and asset risk choices is analyzed. The specific seniority of such regulatory claims, and potentially strong negative correlation between bank asset classes, significantly alters our traditional view of such regulatory influences on bank behavior. I find that the discount window's presence does not always prompt bank risk taking and leverage, but it does partially offset such incentives under certain conditions. In addition to its cost, a reserve requirement provides the bank with an indirect subsidy that may encourage deposit funding. Thus, regulatory reforms, such as the FDIC Improvement Act of 1991, which curtail banks' access to the discount window, may not always be appropriate to resolve a bank's incentive for moral hazard behavior. The Fed's presence needs to be more comprehensively examined to design effective regulatory policy.

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