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Information or Insurance? On the Role of Loan Officer Discretion in Credit Assessment

Martin Brown (), Matthias Schaller (), Simone Westerfeld () and Markus Heusler ()

No 1203, Working Papers on Finance from University of St. Gallen, School of Finance

Abstract: We employ a unique dataset of 6,669 credit assessments for 3,542 small businesses by nine banks using an identical rating model over the period 2006-2011 to examine (i) to what extent loan officers use their discretion to smooth credit ratings of their clients, and (ii) to assess whether this use of discretion is driven by information about the creditworthiness of the borrower or by the insurance of clients against fluctuations in lending conditions. Our results show that loan officers make extensive use of their discretion to smooth clients’ credit ratings: One in five rating shocks induced by changes in the quantitative assessment of a client is reversed by the loan officer. This smoothing of credit ratings is prevalent across all rating classes, is independent of whether the borrower experiences a positive or a negative rating shock, and is independent of whether the shock is firm-specific or market-related. We find that discretionary rating changes have limited power in predicting future loan performance, indicating that the smoothing of credit ratings is only partially driven by information about creditworthiness. Instead, in line with the implicit contract view of credit relationships loan officers are more likely to smooth ratings when rating shocks have stronger implications for interest rates.

Keywords: Relationship banking; Asymmetric information; Implicit contracts; Credit rating. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: G21 L14 D82 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 50 pages
Date: 2012-05
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