June 2006

Are Longer Bankruptcies Really More Costly?

Daniel M. Covitz, Song Han, and Beth Anne Wilson


We test the widely held assumption that longer restructurings are more costly. In contrast to earlier studies, we use instrumental variables to control for the endogeneity of restructuring time and creditor return. Instrumenting proves critical to our finding that creditor recovery rates increase with duration for roughly 1½ years following default, but decrease thereafter. This, and similar results using the likelihood of reentering bankruptcy, suggest that there may be an optimal time in default. Moreover, the default duration of almost half of our sample is well outside the optimal default duration implied by our estimates. We also find that creditors benefit from more experienced judges and from oversight by only one judge. The results have implications for the reform and design of bankruptcy systems.

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Keywords: Bankruptcy cost, bankruptcy reorganization, recovery rate, credit risk

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Last Update: November 23, 2020