Christian Opp

Christian C. G. Opp

The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania

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Curriculum Vitae (link)


Research Interests:

Financial institutions and asset pricing



”Asymmetric Information and Intermediation Chains," with V. Glode, March 2016.
American Economic Review (Forthcoming).
Best Paper Award --- 12th Annual Conference in Financial Economics at IDC-Herzliya


We propose a parsimonious model of bilateral trade under asymmetric information to shed light on the prevalence of intermediation chains that stand between buyers and sellers in many decentralized markets. Our model features a classic problem in economics where an agent uses his market power to inefficiently screen a privately informed counterparty. Paradoxically, involving moderately informed intermediaries also endowed with market power can improve trade efficiency. Long intermediation chains in which each trader's information set is similar to those of his direct counterparties limit traders' incentives to post prices that reduce trade volume and jeopardize gains to trade.


“Rating Agencies in the Face of Regulation,” with M. Opp and M. Harris, Journal of Financial Economics 108 (2013), pp. 46-61 (link)



This paper develops a theoretical framework to shed light on variation in credit rating standards over time and across asset classes. Ratings issued by credit rating agencies serve a dual role: they provide information to investors and are used to regulate institutional investors. We show that introducing rating-contingent regulation that favors highly rated securities may increase or decrease rating informativeness, but unambiguously increases the volume of highly rated securities. If the regulatory advantage of highly rated securities is sufficiently large, delegated information acquisition is unsustainable, since the rating agency prefers to facilitate regulatory arbitrage by inflating ratings. Our model relates rating informativeness to the quality distribution of issuers, the complexity of assets, and issuers' outside options. We reconcile our results with the existing empirical literature and highlight new, testable implications, such as repercussions of the Dodd-Frank Act.


Working Papers:

“Venture Capital Cycles," June 2014.
Revise & Resubmit Journal of Political Economy.


I develop a dynamic general equilibrium asset pricing model that can address a range of empirical regularities related to venture capital intermediation, some of which often have been taken as evidence of investor irrationality. The model characterizes the joint equilibrium dynamics of VC fund flows, alphas, risk premia, failure risk, and IPO volume, as well as their links to the macroeconomy. In the model VC firms' time-varying screening and funding choices feed back into VC fund vintages' alphas and risk exposures. Fragility in VC funding during downturns creates endogenous barriers to entry which benefits those ventures that have obtained funding during previous booms. This effect lowers venture investments' low-frequency risk exposures in booms and can rationalize lenient funding standards, high IPO volume, high idiosyncratic failure risk, and high fund inflows despite low future expected returns.


“(De)centralizing Trade," with V. Glode, November 2015


We propose a parsimonious model to evaluate the relative merits of centralized and decentralized trade when agents are asymmetrically informed about the value of an asset. In a centralized market, the seller posts one price and buyers simultaneously decide whether to pay this price for the asset. In a decentralized market, the seller sequentially contacts buyers and quotes them potentially different prices. We compare the social efficiency of trade in these two types of market when traders' information sets are independent of the market structure as well as when the acquisition of information by traders is endogenous.


Real Anomalies: Are Financial Markets a Sideshow?”  , with J. van Binsbergen, March 2016



We examine the importance of financial market imperfections such as asset pricing anomalies on the real economy. In order to assess distortions quantitatively, we estimate the joint dynamic distribution of firm characteristics that have been linked to financial imperfections and other firm variables, such as investment, capital, and value added. Based on a model that matches these joint dynamics we then evaluate the counterfactual dynamic distribution of these quantities absent financial market imperfections and find that they can cause large and persistent deviations. This implies that financial intermediaries that can reduce and/or eliminate such market imperfections can provide large value added to the economy. We show that both the persistence and the amount of mispriced capital are a major determinant of the real economic consequences. Our framework can be extended to address the welfare costs of incomplete risk sharing and other financial market imperfections.


“Learning about Distress," April 2015.
Winner of the Marshall Blume Prize in Financial Research [First Prize]


I develop an analytically tractable dynamic asset pricing model to study expected returns of financially distressed firms in the presence of learning and investor activism. Learning critically affects distressed stocks' valuations and risk exposures as information about solvency is essential for firm survival in distress. Informational externalities from active investors thus can also have first-order effects on distress risk premia. The presented model can shed light on a variety of empirical regularities related to financial distress, such as distressed firms' apparent stock market underperformance, momentum return dynamics, and negative abnormal returns after private placements of public equity involving active investors.


Macroprudential Bank Capital Regulation in a Competitive Financial System," with M. Harris and M. Opp, October 2014


We propose a tractable general equilibrium framework to analyze the effectiveness of bank capital regulations when banks face competition from public markets. Our analysis shows that increased competition can not only render previously optimal bank capital regulations ineffective but also imply that, over some ranges, increases in capital requirements cause more banks to engage in value-destroying risk-shifting. Our model generates a set of novel implications that highlight the dependencies between optimal bank capital regulation and the comparative advantages of various players in the financial system.


Intertemporal Information Acquisition and Investment Dynamics”  , February 2015



This paper studies intertemporal information acquisition by agents that are rational Bayesian learners and that dynamically optimize over consumption, investment in capital, and investment in information. The model predicts that investors acquire more information in times when future capital productivity is expected to be high, the cost of capital is low, new technologies are expected to have a persistent impact on productivity, and the scalability of investments is expected to be high. My results shed light on the economic mechanisms behind various dynamic aspects of information production by the financial sector, such as the sources of variation in returns on information acquisition for investment banks or private equity funds.


“Cycles of Innovation and Financial Propagation,” January 2010


Episodes of boom-bust cycles tend to occur in sectors with recent arrivals of new technologies and are often related to excessive funding by the financial sector. In this paper, I develop a dynamic general equilibrium model consistent with a role for the financial sector in propagation during such episodes. I extend a standard Schumpeterian growth model by incorporating (a) a monopolistically competitive financial sector and (b) time-varying technological conditions in real sectors. I identify two propagation channels. The first operates through financial firms' acquisition of sector-specific knowledge (skill channel); financial firms chase "hot sectors" and thereby amplify fluctuations. The second channel originates in an interaction between competition in the financial sector and patent races in product markets (competition channel). Financial firms' temporary competitive advantages in access to new ventures imply market segmentation: financial firms maximize the surplus generated by the client firms they can currently attract, anticipating competing financial firms' future screening and funding decisions. Relative to the Pareto optimum, the competition channel generates overinvestment in sectors with temporarily improved technological conditions; excessively high growth in these sectors comes at the cost of lower growth in the economy as a whole. The model links financial propagation to time variation in the cross section of asset prices. Exposures to aggregate risk dampen amplification effects.



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