都不是。1772年,一场空前的危机击中了阿姆斯特丹：一家受人尊敬的荷兰投资银团对不列颠东印度公司(British East India Company)股票的投资变成了一场灾难。
日前，斯坦福大学商学院(Stanford Graduate School of Business)教授彼得•库迪斯基于这场荷兰危机共同撰写了一篇文章，围绕“个人经验（而非市场信息）决定乐观、悲观以及信贷的获得与否”这种不那么科学的方法给出了现代经验。
但是，是什么推动了乐观或悲观情绪呢？库迪斯与巴塞罗那庞培法布拉大学(Universitat Pompeu Fabra)的汉斯-乔亚吉姆•沃斯发现了一些令人意外的答案。
It was a confident, high-powered investment firm with credit lines at top financial institutions. It made big bets using borrowed money to buy assets and generate higher returns. But when the market for those assets went south, lenders demanded more collateral until the firm suddenly collapsed. Many frightened lenders clamped down on all borrowers, setting off an overall credit crunch.
The implosion of a giant subprime mortgage lender in 2007?The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008?
No. This crisis hit Amsterdam in 1772, after a respected Dutch investment syndicate made a disastrous bet on shares of the British East India Company.
A new paper on the Dutch debacle, coauthored by Peter Koudijs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, turns up modern-day lessons about the not-so-scientific ways in which personal experience rather than market information can determine optimism, pessimism, and access to credit.
It’s no surprise that credit is “pro-cyclical.” When asset prices are booming, optimistic lenders tend to make more loans and often feed the euphoria. When markets sink, lenders rein in risk and sometimes make the downturn worse.
But what drives the underlying optimism or pessimism? Koudijs, working with Hans-Joachim Voth at the UniversitatPompeuFabra in Barcelona, found surprising answers.
Though the Dutch financial markets then had none of today’s technology, they employed many of the same practices that traders use today. Investors bought securities, sometimes borrowing money with loans secured by the shares they were buying. In today's language, they bought shares on margin. Lenders protected themselves by demanding a “haircut” – collateral in cash or securities that exceeded the loan amount by a specified percentage. If the value of the securities dropped below that specified percentage, the lender would demand that the investor put up additional money to stay in line with the haircut. If the investor couldn’t come up with the added margin, the lender was entitled to liquidate the securities and recoup the loan amount.
The Amsterdam crisis began when a Dutch group known as the Seppenwolde syndicate made a big, contrarian bet on the shares of East India Company. Those shares had plunged in 1771 mainly because of losses in Bengal, but the company kept paying high dividends and covered up its shortfalls by borrowing money. Convinced that East India shares would quickly rebound, the Seppenwolde group aggressively bought them on margin. But instead of rebounding, the shares fell even further after the company slashed its dividend.
To make a long story short, the Seppenwolde group went bankrupt shortly after Christmas of 1772. The disaster was a top story in Dutch newspapers. It ruined some of Amsterdam’s merchants and bankers. To prevent a general credit collapse, the city of Amsterdam stepped in temporarily as a lender of last resort. Sound familiar?
As it happened, the lenders to Seppenwolde never lost a guilder. Within weeks, they had liquidated all the East India shares and had recovered the money they had loaned.
But then the story took a strange turn. Koudijs and Voth found that Dutch lenders reacted to the Seppenwolde collapse in strikingly different ways. Those who had made loans to Seppenwolde but hadn’t actually lost money became far more pessimistic and demanded much bigger haircuts from all new borrowers. But those who had dodged the bullet by not lending to Seppenwolde didn’t tighten their requirements at all. In fact, those lenders slightly reduced haircuts to their borrowers – a sign they were at least as sanguine as before.