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Problem Loans and Cost Efficiency in Commercial Banks

by Allen N. Berger and Robert DeYoung

OCC Working Paper 95-5, December 1995.


This paper addresses the seldom-examined intersection between the problem loan and the bank efficiency literatures. We employ Granger-causality techniques to test four hypotheses regarding the relationships among loan quality, cost efficiency, and bank capital -- "bad luck," "bad management," "skimping," and "moral hazard."

In general, the data suggest that problem loans Granger-cause reductions in cost efficiency (supporting the bad luck hypothesis), and that cost efficiency Granger-causes reductions in problem loans (supporting the bad management hypothesis). On average, the data support neither the skimping or moral hazard hypotheses, although we find evidence of the former in a subsample of cost efficient banks, and evidence of the latter in a subsample of thinly capitalized banks.

Our results imply that policy makers and bank researchers should consider cost efficiency in addition to the more traditional indicators of bank failure (capital levels, credit risk, etc.). Our results are ambiguous concerning whether or not loan quality should be included as a control variable in cost efficiency models.


As with all OCC Working Papers, the opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or the Department of the Treasury.

Any whole or partial reproduction of material in this paper should include the following citation: Berger, Allen N., and Robert DeYoung, "Problem Loans and Cost Efficiency in Commercial Banks," Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, E&PA Working Paper 95-5, December 1995.


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