Baker Library 245
Harvard Business School
Boston MA 02163
Institutional Affiliation: Harvard University
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|June 2020||Weak Credit Covenants|
with : w27316
Using novel data on 1,240 credit agreements, we investigate sources of contractual complexity in the leveraged loan market. While negative covenants are widespread, carve-out and deductible clauses that weaken them are as frequent. We propose simple measures of contractual weakness, which uniquely explain the market-wide price reaction that followed the 2017 J.Crew restructuring, a high profile use of such contractual elements. Leveraged buyouts have significantly weaker loan agreements, and a larger non-bank funding of a loan is conducive to weaker contractual terms. Weak covenants translate to modestly higher issuance spreads. Overall, our findings are consistent with sophisticated borrowers catering to a reaching-for-yield phenomenon by exploiting contractual complexity.