Thomas M. Eisenbach — New York Fed


Welcome to the personal webpage of Thomas Eisenbach,
Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Curriculum Vitae

Full Web Version | Full PDF Version

Working Papers

Cyber Risk and the U.S. Financial System: A Pre-Mortem Analysis
with Anna Kovner and Michael Lee.
We model how a cyber attack may be amplified through the U.S. financial system, focusing on the wholesale payments network. We estimate that the impairment of any of the five most active U.S. banks will result in significant spillovers to other banks, with 38 percent of the network affected on average. The impact varies and can be larger on particular days and in geographies with concentrated banking markets. When banks respond to uncertainty by liquidity hoarding, the potential impact in forgone payment activity is dramatic, reaching more than 2.5 times daily GDP. In a reverse stress test, interruptions originating from banks with less than $10 billion in assets are sufficient to impair a significant amount of the system. Additional risk emerges from third-party providers, which connect otherwise unrelated banks.
Bank-Intermediated Arbitrage
with Nina Boyarchenko, Pooja Gupta, Or Shachar, and Peter Van Tassel.
We argue that post-crisis bank regulation can explain large, persistent deviations from parity on basis trades requiring leverage. Documenting the financing cost and balance sheet impact on a broad array of basis trades for regulated institutions, we show that the implied return on equity on such trades is considerably lower under post-crisis regulation. In addition, although hedge funds would serve as natural alternative arbitrageurs, we document that funds reliant on leverage from a global systemically important bank suffer significant declines in assets and returns relative to unlevered funds. Thus, post-crisis regulation not only affects the targeted banks directly but also spills over to unregulated firms that rely on bank intermediation for their arbitrage strategies.
Cournot Fire Sales in Real and Financial Markets [Revised February 2020]
with Gregory Phelan.
In standard Walrasian macro-finance models, pecuniary externalities due to fire sales lead to excessive borrowing and insufficient liquidity holdings. We investigate whether imperfect competition (Cournot) improves welfare through internalizing the externality and find that this is far from guaranteed. Cournot competition can over-correct the inefficiently high borrowing in a standard model of levered real investment. In contrast, Cournot competition can exacerbate the inefficiently low liquidity in a standard model of financial portfolio choice. Implications for welfare and regulation are therefore sector-specific, depending both on the nature of the shocks and the competitiveness of the industry.
Horizon-Dependent Risk Aversion and the Timing and Pricing of Uncertainty
with Marianne Andries and Martin Schmalz. Revision requested, Review of Financial Studies.
Inspired by experimental evidence, we amend the recursive utility model to let risk aversion decrease with the temporal horizon. Our pseudo-recursive preferences remain tractable and retain appealing features of the long-run risk framework, notably its success at explaining asset pricing moments. Calibrating the agents' preferences to explain the market returns observed in the data no longer implies an extreme preference for early resolutions of uncertainty; and captures key puzzles in finance on the valuation and demand for risk at long maturities.
The Economics of Bank Supervision [Revised December 2019]
with David Lucca and Robert Townsend.
We use unique data on work hours of Federal Reserve bank supervisors and a structural model to provide new insights on the impact of bank supervision, the efficiency of the allocation of supervisory resources, and the shape of supervisory preferences. We find that supervision has an economically large effect in lowering bank distress and that the supervisory cost function displays large economies of scale with respect to bank size. Estimated supervisory preferences weight larger banks more than proportionally, consistent with macro-prudential objectives, and especially so after 2008 when resources were reallocated to large banks. This reallocation lowered risk at large banks less than it increased risk at small banks. We show evidence of frictions that prevent an efficient allocation of resources both within and across Federal Reserve districts. Model counterfactuals quantify the benefits of reducing these frictions, especially for the riskiest banks.
The Term Structure of the Price of Variance Risk
with Marianne Andries, Martin Schmalz and Yichuan Wang.
We estimate the term structure of the price of variance risk (PVR), which helps distinguish between competing asset-pricing theories. First, we measure the PVR as proportional to the Sharpe ratio of short-term holding returns of delta-neutral index straddles; second, we estimate the PVR in a Heston (1993) stochastic-volatility model. In both cases, the estimation is performed separately for different maturities. We find the PVR is negative and decreases in absolute value with maturity; it is more negative and its term structure is steeper when volatility is high. These findings are inconsistent with calibrations of established asset-pricing models that assume constant risk aversion across maturities.
Watering a Lemon Tree: Heterogeneous Risk Taking and Monetary Policy Transmission
with Dong Choi and Tanju Yorulmazer. Revision requested, Journal of Financial Intermediation.
We build a general equilibrium model with maturity transformation that impedes monetary policy transmission. In equilibrium, productive agents choose higher leverage, exposing themselves to greater liquidity risk, which limits their responsiveness to interest rate changes. A reduction in the interest rate then leads to a deterioration in aggregate investment quality, which blunts the monetary stimulus and decreases liquidation values. This, in turn, reduces loan demand, decreasing the interest rate further and generating a negative spiral. Overall, the allocation of credit is distorted and monetary stimulus can become ineffective even with significant interest rate drops.
Anxiety and Pro-Cyclical Risk Taking with Bayesian Agents
with Martin Schmalz.
We provide a model that can explain empirically relevant variations in confidence and risk taking by combining horizon-dependent risk aversion (“anxiety”) and selective memory in a Bayesian intra-personal game. In the time-series, overconfidence is more prevalent when actual risk levels are high, while underconfidence occurs when risks are low. In the cross-section, more anxious agents are more prone to biased confidence and their beliefs fluctuate more. This systematic variation in confidence levels can lead to objectively excessive risk taking by “insiders” with the potential to amplify boom-bust cycles.

Publications

Fire-Sale Spillovers and Systemic Risk
with Fernando Duarte. Journal of Finance, forthcoming.
We identify and track over time the factors that make the financial system vulnerable to fire sales by constructing an index of aggregate vulnerability. The index starts increasing quickly in 2004, before most other major systemic risk measures, and triples by 2008. The fire-sale-specific factors of delevering speed and concentration of illiquid assets account for the majority of this increase. Individual banks’ contributions to aggregate vulnerability predict other firm-specific measures of systemic risk, including SRISK and ΔCoVaR. The balance sheet-based measures we propose are therefore a useful early indicator of when and where vulnerabilities are building up.
Rollover Risk as Market Discipline: A Two-Sided Inefficiency
Journal of Financial Economics, 2017, 126(2), 252–269. [WP Version]
Why does the market discipline that financial intermediaries face seem too weak during booms and too strong during crises? This paper shows in a general equilibrium setting that rollover risk as a disciplining device is effective only if all intermediaries face purely idiosyncratic risk. However, if assets are correlated, a two-sided inefficiency arises: Good aggregate states have intermediaries taking excessive risks, while bad aggregate states suffer from costly fire sales. The driving force behind this inefficiency is an amplifying feedback loop between asset values and market discipline. In equilibrium, financial intermediaries inefficiently amplify both positive and negative aggregate shocks.
Supervising Large, Complex Financial Institutions: What Do Supervisors Do?
with Andrew Haughwout, Beverly Hirtle, Anna Kovner, David Lucca, and Matthew Plosser, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Economic Policy Review, 2017, 23(1), 57–77.
The Federal Reserve is responsible for the prudential supervision of bank holding companies (BHCs) on a consolidated basis. Prudential supervision involves monitoring and oversight to assess whether these firms are engaged in unsafe or unsound practices, as well as ensuring that firms are taking corrective actions to address such practices. Prudential supervision is interlinked with, but distinct from, regulation, which involves the development and promulgation of the rules under which BHCs and other regulated financial intermediaries operate. This paper describes the Federal Reserve’s supervisory approach for large, complex financial companies and how prudential supervisory activities are structured, staffed, and implemented on a day‐to‐day basis at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as part of the broader supervisory program of the Federal Reserve System. The goal of the paper is to generate insight for those not involved in supervision into what supervisors do and how they do it. Understanding how prudential supervision works is a critical precursor to determining how to measure its impact and effectiveness.
Anxiety in the Face of Risk
with Martin Schmalz, Journal of Financial Economics, 2016, 121(2), 414–426. [WP Version]
We model an ‘anxious’ agent as one who is more risk averse with respect to imminent risks than with respect to distant risks. Based on a utility function that captures individual subjects’ behavior in experiments, we provide a tractable theory relaxing the restriction of constant risk aversion across horizons and show that it generates rich implications. We first apply the model to insurance markets and explain the high premia for short-horizon insurance. Then, we show that costly delegated portfolio management, investment advice, and withdrawal fees emerge as endogenous features and strategies to cope with dynamic inconsistency in intratemporal risk–return tradeoffs.
Sooner or Later: Timing of Monetary Policy with Heterogeneous Risk-Taking
with Dong Choi and Tanju Yorulmazer, American Economic Review (Papers and Proceedings), 2016, 106(5), 490–495.
We analyze the effects and interactions of monetary policy tools that differ in terms of their timing and their targeting. In a model with heterogeneous agents, more productive agents endogenously expose themselves to higher interim liquidity risk by borrowing and investing more. Two inefficiencies impair the transmission of monetary policy: an investment- and a hoarding inefficiency. Heterogeneous agents respond disparately to ex-ante, conventional and ex-post, unconventional monetary policy. However, we show that the two policies are equivalent due to the endogeneity of hoarding. In contrast, targeted interventions such as discount-window lending can alleviate both inefficiencies at the same time.
Stability of Funding Models: An Analytical Framework
with Todd Keister, James McAndrews and Tanju Yorulmazer, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Economic Policy Review, 2014, 20(1), 29–49.
We use a simple analytical framework to illustrate the determinants of a financial intermediary’s ability to survive stress events. An intermediary in our framework faces two types of risk: the value of its assets may decline and/or its short-term creditors may decide not to roll over their debt. We measure its stability by looking at what combinations of shocks it can experience while remaining solvent. We study how stability depends on the intermediary’s balance-sheet characteristics such as its leverage, the maturity structure of its debt, and the liquidity and riskiness of its asset portfolio. We also show how our framework can be applied to study current policy issues, including liquidity requirements, discount window policy, and different approaches to reforming money market mutual funds.
Macroeconomics with Financial Frictions: A Survey
with Markus Brunnermeier and Yuliy Sannikov, in Advances in Economics and Econometrics, Tenth World Congress of the Econometric Society, 2013, ed. by D. Acemoglu, M. Arellano and E. Dekel, Cambridge University Press.
This article surveys the macroeconomic implications of financial frictions. Financial frictions lead to persistence and when combined with illiquidity to non-linear amplification effects. Risk is endogenous and liquidity spirals cause financial instability. Increasing margins further restrict leverage and exacerbate downturns. A demand for liquid assets and a role for money emerges. The market outcome is generically not even constrained efficient and the issuance of government debt can lead to a Pareto improvement. While financial institutions can mitigate frictions, they introduce additional fragility and through their erratic money creation harm price stability.