Research Bulletins published in 2018

No. 42
11 January 2018
Sub-sovereign bonds in banks’ portfolios: A role for political connections?

Abstract

JEL Classification

G21 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Banks, Depository Institutions, Micro Finance Institutions, Mortgages

H63 : Public Economics→National Budget, Deficit, and Debt→Debt, Debt Management, Sovereign Debt

P16 : Economic Systems→Capitalist Systems→Political Economy

Abstract

This article shows that German savings banks appear to increase their holdings of bonds issued by their respective Bundesland (federal state) government if as a result of an election, the local governments at Bundesland and at Kreis (county) level are no longer dominated by the same party. This behaviour is not consistent with other known reasons why banks hold government debt, such as compliance with regulation, the tendency to accumulate risky assets when close to bankruptcy, or political pressure. Instead, we argue that in the wake of a post-election loss of political connections along party lines, local government-owned banks use purchases of sub-sovereign bonds to keep communication channels with state politicians open, a mechanism akin to lobbying.