DP17032 Exorbitant Privilege? Quantitative Easing and the Bond Market Subsidy of Prospective Fallen Angels
We document capital misallocation in the U.S. investment-grade (IG) corporate bond market, driven by quantitative easing (QE). Prospective fallen angels---risky firms just above the IG rating cutoff---enjoyed subsidized bond financing since 2009, especially when the scale of QE purchases peaked and from long-duration IG-focused investors that held more securities purchased in QE programs. The benefiting firms used this privilege to fund risky acquisitions and increase market share, exploiting the sluggish adjustment of credit ratings in downgrading after M\&A, which adversely affected competitors’ employment and investment. Eventually, these firms suffered severe downgrades at the onset of the pandemic.