Skip to main content
OCC Flag

An official website of the United States government

October 2011

Debt Structure, Market Value of Firm, and Recovery Rate (WP 2011-2)

This publication is part of:

Collection: Economics Working Papers Archive


This paper examines the determinants of creditor recoveries from defaulted debt instruments, an important yet under-studied area in investment and risk management. First, we argue that to properly measure a debt instrument's relative position in a firm's debt structure, debt pari passu to the instrument must be taken into account. We propose a new measure of seniority and find that it is the most important determinant of recovery rates, explaining more recovery variations than the combination of all commonly used instrument-level variables, including seniority class, collateral type, and percentage above. Second, we find that firm-level variables, especially the trailing 12-month stock returns, are more critical than industry- or macroeconomic-level variables, although the latter can also help, for private firms because stock price information is not available for such firms. In contrast with earlier studies, we find that the relative contribution of the industry and macroeconomic variables varies with the sample, model specification, and especially the modeling technique used.


Min Qi and Xinlei Zhao