Monday, January 12, 2015

Tragedy of the Commons in M&A

Attached is a piece on the tragedy of the commons in banking. It refers to a chain reaction (AKA herding?) in which the action of one bank triggers reactions from other banks leading to a dangerous race to the bottom in risk standards. It underlies the boom and bust cycles in many deal markets including M&A. As Ralph has noted in his anticipation article, once one competitor starts buying firms, others in the industry react. Early buyers tend to get better prices than late in the cycle buyers. Nonetheless, late in the cycle buyers are under pressure to “do something” so as not to be left behind. Hence they make over priced acquisitions. The key takeaway is firms do not operate in a vacuum and are influenced, sometimes negatively, to respond to competitor actions.


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