Ethics, capital and talent competition in banking

Fenghua Song, Anjan Thakor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We model optimal ethical standards, capital requirements and talent allocation in banking. Banks with varying safety-net protections, including depositories and shadow banks, innovate products and compete for talent. Managers dislike unethical behavior, but banks heed it only because detection imposes costs. We find: (i) higher capital induces higher ethical standards, but socially optimal capital requirements may tolerate some unethical behavior; (ii) managerial ethics fails to raise banks’ ethical standards; (iii) banks with lower ethical standards attract better talent and innovate more; and (iv) it is socially optimal to allocate better talent to shadow banks instead of depositories, and this allocation results in higher capital requirements and ethical standards for depositories. Consequently, with capital capacity constraints, the shadow banking sector is larger than the depository sector; talent competition induces a race to the bottom in ethical standards, and the regulator responds by setting capital requirements to magnify this size difference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100963
JournalJournal of Financial Intermediation
StatePublished - Oct 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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