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Prepayment Penalty as a Screening Mechanism for Default and Prepayment Risks



The objective of this article is to offer a theoretical model of asymmetric information to analyze the screening role of prepayment penalty. We consider both default risk and prepayment risk. What makes the role of prepayment penalty interesting and more complicated is that a borrower's contract choice could send conflicting signals to the lender about that borrower's default and prepayment risk type. This is different from earlier theoretical models of mortgage choice under asymmetric information where a certain aspect of the contract (e.g., discount points or loan-to-value ratio) is explored as a screening mechanism for a single risk dimension (default risk or prepayment risk) of the borrower type. We show the existence of separating equilibria where different default and prepayment risk types choose contracts with different combinations of prepayment penalty and interest rate. For certain parameter combinations, the model also generates a pooling equilibrium where all borrower types obtain the same contract. Our analysis could offer a partial explanation for the observation that contracts with prepayment penalties are a lot less prevalent than contracts with points.