Does Corporate Lending by Banks and Finance Companies Differ? Evidence on Specialization in Private Debt Contracting



This paper establishes empirically the existence of specialization in private-market corporate lending, adding a new dimension to the public versus private debt distinctions now common in the literature. Comparing corporate loans made by banks and by finance companies, we find that the two types of intermediaries are equally likely to finance information-problematic firms. However, finance companies tend to serve observably riskier borrowers, particularly more leveraged borrowers. Evidence supports both regulatory and reputation-based explanations for this specialization. In passing, we shed light on various theories of debt contracting and intermediation and present facts about finance companies.