Dozens of studies were presented or at least distributed at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's annual Bank Structure and Competition conference last week. A few are highlighted below, and all are available through the Chicago Fed's Web site,

Banks are less likely to merge if their chief executive officers are paid in stock, write Richard T. Bliss of Babson College and Richard J. Rosen of Indiana University.

The researchers find that mergers typically result in higher pay for chief executives but lower stock prices. This means chief executives have an incentive to undertake mergers that are not in the best interest of shareholders. "The CEO wins, even when the stock market bids the price down," Mr. Rosen explains.

To eliminate this incentive, the researchers say, companies should pay their executives in stock. This would make top managers less likely to undertake mergers and other projects detrimental to investors. "You'll pay them less and there will be fewer mergers," he says.

The study, "CEO Compensation and Bank Mergers," covers 60 major deals from 1986 to 1995 that were collectively worth $729 billion. The average bank asset size was $63 billion, though the researchers say their findings hold true for smaller banks.

Overages in Mortgage Pricing" dissects who pays more for home loans and why. Harold A. Black, Thomas P. Boehm, and Ramon P. DeGennaro, all professors at the University of Tennessee, find that competition plays a large role in determining how much a borrower pays.

For example, the average overage paid on a 30-year fixed mortgage is 21.3 basis points, versus 26.2 on all other mortgages. The market for long- term mortgages is broader and deeper, so borrowers have more leverage. "Competition protects the borrower," Mr. Black explains. The researchers also find that women pay more than male borrowers, 25.6 basis points versus 21.1 basis points. Male loan officers collect larger overages than female loan officers, 60.4 basis points compared with 41.3.

As more people declare bankruptcy, the social stigma is reduced and the number of filings increases, according to David B. Gross of the University of Chicago and Nicholas S. Souleles of the University of Pennsylvania.

In "Explaining the Increase in Bankruptcy and Delinquency: Stigma versus Risk-Composition," the authors studied how the probability of default changed from 1995 through 1997 for individuals with identical risk characteristics.

Using data on more than 100,000 accounts from several credit card issuers, the study finds that people were 4% more likely to default and 1% more likely to declare bankruptcy.

Figuring it would be difficult to reverse such a trend, the authors recommend that Congress make it more expensive to declare bankruptcy.

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