Monday, July 25, 2011

Trust Companies in the Panic of 1907


The runs on trust companies during the Panic of 1907 have been blamed on unregulated financial innovation. New York trust companies are said to have taken advantage of gaps in regulation to engage in risky behavior, ultimately causing depositors to lose confidence in trust companies. This paper shows that there was not a general loss of confidence in trust companies. Runs were concentrated on a specific group of trust companies: the uptown trust companies. But there is no evidence of mismanagement or unusually risky asset allocation among these companies. Instead, it was the nature of their deposits that made them more susceptible to runs. While traditional trust companies focused on small numbers of large deposits from businesses, the uptown trust companies had large numbers of household deposits.

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