Article | Journal of Financial Economics | July 1996

Perceptions and the Politics of Finance: Junk Bonds and the Regulatory Seizure of First Capital Life

by S. C. Gilson, H. DeAngelo and L. DeAngelo

Abstract

In May 1991, one month after seizing Executive Life, California regulators seized First Capital Life (FCLIC). Both insurers were Drexel clients with large junk bond holdings, and both had experienced 'bank runs.' FCLIC's run followed regulators' televised comments that its poor condition necessitated a substantial cash infusion. Yet FCLIC's statutory capital — with junk bonds, real estate, and mortgages marked to market — was far from lowest among major insurers with California policyholders. It becomes lowest if junk bonds alone are marked to market at year-end 1990 (ignoring larger market declines in real estate/mortgages and the junk bond market's 21% return in early 1991). Our findings suggest a regulatory bias against junk bonds in the political backlash against the 1980s.

Keywords: Finance; Bonds; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms;

Citation:

Gilson, S. C., H. DeAngelo, and L. DeAngelo. "Perceptions and the Politics of Finance: Junk Bonds and the Regulatory Seizure of First Capital Life." Journal of Financial Economics 41 (July 1996): 475–511.