Capital Structure, Investment, and Fire Sales

Douglas Gale and Piero Gottardi

We study a dynamic general equilibrium model in which firms choose their investment level and their capital structure, trading off the tax advantages of debt against the risk of costly default. The costs of bankruptcy are endogenously determined, as bankrupt firms are forced to liquidate their assets, resulting in a fire sale if the market is illiquid. When the corporate income tax rate is positive, firms have a unique optimal capital structure. In equilibrium firms default with positive probability and their assets are liquidated at fire-sale prices. The equilibrium not only features underinvestment but is also constrained inefficient. In particular there is too little debt and too little default.

Publication number: 
DP 23
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