Coordination Risk and the Price of Debt

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Discussion Paper

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Creditors of a distressed borrower face a coordination problem. Even if the fundamentals are sound, fear of premature foreclosure by others may lead to pre-emptive action, undermining the project. Recognition of this problem lies behind corporate bankruptcy provisions across the world, and it has been identified as a culprit in international financial crises, but has received scant attention from the literature on debt pricing. The apparent multiplicity of equilibria is a barrier to development of this issue in asset pricing, but this multiplicity is only apparent. Without common knowledge of fundamentals, the incidence of failure is uniquely determined provided that private information is precise enough. This affords a way to price the coordination failure. There are two further conclusions. First, coordination is more difficult to sustain when fundamentals deteriorate. Thus, when fundamentals deteriorate,t he onset of crisis can be very swift. Second, “transparency” — in the sense of greater provision of information to the market — does not generally mitigate the coordination problem. Transparency is not a panacea.

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