Revealing Asset Quality: Liquidity Signaling and Optimal Stress Tests

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Williams, Basil


Viswanathan, S
Rampini, Adriano

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In my first chapter, I present a model in which sellers can signal the quality of an asset both by retaining a fraction of the asset and by choosing the liquidity of the market in which they search for buyers. Although these signals may seem interchangeable, I present two settings which show they are not. In the first setting, sellers have private information regarding only asset quality, and I show that liquidity dominates retention as a signal in equilibrium. In the second setting, both asset quality and seller impatience are privately known, and I show that both retention and liquidity operate simultaneously to fully separate the two dimensions of private information. Contrary to received theory, the fully separating equilibrium of the second setting may contain regions where market liquidity is increasing in asset quality. Finally, I show that if sellers design an asset-backed security before receiving private information regarding its quality, then the optimality of standard debt is robust to the paper's various settings.

In my second chapter, I explore the question of how informative bank stress tests should be. I use Bayesian persuasion to formalize stress tests and show that regulators can reduce the likelihood of a bank run by performing tests which are only partially informative. Optimal stress tests give just enough failing grades to keep passing grades credible enough to avoid runs. The worse the state of the banking system, the more stringent stress tests must be to prevent runs. I find that optimal stress tests, by reducing the probability of runs, reduce the optimal level of banks' capital cushions. I also examine the impact of anticipated stress tests on banks' ex ante incentive to invest in risky versus safe assets.





Williams, Basil (2015). Revealing Asset Quality: Liquidity Signaling and Optimal Stress Tests. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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