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Loss Given Default, Loan Seasoning and Financial Fragility: Evidence from Commercial Real Estate Loans at Failed Banks


Commercial real estate (CRE) loan losses are a recurring contributor to bank failures and financial instability, yet they are not well understood. We examine a unique and proprietary data set of CRE loan defaults at banks that failed and were resolved by the FDIC after the 2008 financial crisis. We build upon an existing literature relating stochastic collateral values to loss given default (LGD). Consistent with model predictions, we show that CRE loans defaulting sooner after origination are more sensitive to declining economic conditions and exhibit LGDs that are more severe. These results are robust to a number of factors, including the declining balance of the loan over time. Our findings point to an inherent fragility associated with high CRE loan growth, even without necessarily a deterioration in lending standards, due to the changing composition of CRE loan seasoning in the industry. This reflects an unexplored risk in the literature concerning rapid and cyclical expansions in CRE credit.

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  1. Source: FDIC calculations.

  2. See Brueggeman and Fisher (2016), p.408, for discussion.

  3. In Jokivuolle and Peura (2003), a loan’s probability of default E[I(ATD)] can also affect expected recoveries via the denominator of the third term in Eq.4. However, we already observe the default outcome in our sample of loans. We therefore do not assume inherent differences in default probabilities across the cross section of loan observations.

  4. Requirements include: a) acquirers must manage the covered assets in the same way that they manage their own assets; b) acquirers must provide regular standardized reporting, adequate workpapers and evidence that the loans are being worked effectively; and c) the FDIC performs regular reviews of loss claims and on-site compliance reviews at least once a year. If the FDIC identifies a problem, the agency may demand program improvements, reverse loss claims or, in the case of a serious contract breach, abrogate the loss share coverage altogether. Acquirers have the right to contest any FDIC actions.

  5. Only a small handful of loans in our data experienced zero losses due to properties that were foreclosed but exceeded the value of the outstanding debt plus expenses. Rather, the overwhelming majority of loans with zero losses appear to be cures in which the borrower was able to become current on the loan again after default. We therefore interpret our results in terms of the probability of curing the loan after default.

  6. For further discussion on the two-step methodology, see Leung and Yu (1996) and Belotti et al. (2015); Wooldridge (2010) provides useful discussion as well—see Chapter 17, pp.690-692.

  7. Source: CoStar.


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A.J. Micheli provided valuable research assistance. We thank Rosalind Bennett, Christine Blair, Claire Brennecke, Jiakai Chen, Chintal Desai, Kristoph Kleiner, Troy Kravitz, Oscar Mitnik, Joseph Nichols, Phil Ostromogolsky, Manju Puri, Lan Shi, Justin Vitanza, as well as seminar participants at the FDIC Center for Financial Research, 2016 Eastern Finance Association Annual Meetings, 82nd International Atlantic Economic Conference, 2018 Interagency Risk Quantification Forum, and 2019 AEA Annual Meetings. We are also grateful to C.F. Sirmans and an anonymous referee for valuable comments. All errors are entirely our own.

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Ross, E.J., Shibut, L. Loss Given Default, Loan Seasoning and Financial Fragility: Evidence from Commercial Real Estate Loans at Failed Banks. J Real Estate Finan Econ 63, 630–661 (2021).

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  • Loss given default
  • Commercial real estate
  • Loan seasoning
  • Collateral
  • Credit cycles

JEL Classification

  • G21
  • R33