CIRJE-F-398 "Micro-aspects of Monetary Policy in Pre-war Japan: Lender of Last Resort and Selection of Banks"
Author Name Okazaki, Tetsuji
Date January 2006
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Remarks Revised as CIRJE-F-447 (2006); Subsequently published in Explorations in Economic History, October 2007, v. 44, iss. 4, pp. 657-79.

The central bank as the Lender of Last Resort (LLR) is faced with a trade off between the stability of the financial system and the "moral hazard" of banks. In this paper we explore how this trade off was dealt with by the Bank of Japan (BOJ) in the pre-war period, and how LLR lending by the BOJ affected the financial system. In particular, this paper focuses on the following two stylized facts of Japanese financial history. First, the BOJ actively intervened in the market as the LLR under the unstable financial system in the 1920s. Second, in this period, the financial market worked well to sort out inefficient banks through failures. In providing an LLR loan, the BOJ adopted the policy of favoring those banks that had an already established transaction relationship with the BOJ. At the same time, the BOJ was selective about which banks it would enter into a transaction relationship with. That is, the BOJ chose the banks it would conduct transactions with based on criteria that included profitability, liquidity, quality of assets, and the personal assets of directors. Furthermore, the BOJ did not hesitate to suspend transaction relationships with those banks whose performance declined. This policy enabled the BOJ to act as the LLR without impairing the function of the market to sort out inefficient banks. Whereas the transaction relationship with the BOJ affected a bank's survivability, the effect was not across the board. That is, the transaction relationship did not increase the survivability of a bank directly, but it increased the influence of profitability and liquidity on survivability, especially in a period of financial crisis. This implies that the BOJ bailed out only those transaction counterparts that were profitable and prudent when the financial system was especially unstable. It is suggested that through concentrating LLR lending on its transaction counterparts, the BOJ could successfully bail out only those banks which were illiquid but solvent, and thereby avoided the moral hazard that the LLR policy might otherwise have incurred.