Larry D. Wall
Economic Review, Vol. 82, No. 1, 1997

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In the United States the risk that a financial breakdown could lead to a taxpayer bailout of the deposit insurance fund has been cited to justify current regulatory controls on what activities may be affiliated with banks. Despite some regulatory changes in the 1990s to protect taxpayers from future debacles, however, widespread failures could still expose taxpayers to losses.

This article proposes a new way to monitor the deposit insurance fund by having the FDIC issue capital notes. Because the interest paid on the notes would be suspended if the fund required a loan from the Treasury or eliminated if taxpayer funds were contributed to offset deposit insurance losses, noteholders would have more incentive to clearly signal the condition of the insurance fund. This signal would help regulators, taxpayers, and their congressional representatives monitor the health of the fund and would change the incentive structure facing FDIC directors. The cost of the notes would be minimal in part because the proceeds would be used to reduce banks' existing deposit insurance obligations.

March 1997