What Can Volatility Smiles Tell Us About the Too Big to Fail Problem?

Phong T. H. Ngo and Diego L. Puente

We exploit the information content of option prices to construct a novel measure of bank tail-risk. We document a persistent increase in tail-risk for the U.S. banking industry following the global financial crisis, except for banks designated as systemically important by the Dodd–Frank Act. We show that this post-crisis difference in tail-risk for large and small banks is consistent with the too-big-to-fail (TBTF) status of large banks being reinforced by the Dodd–Frank designation: Naming the banks whose failure could threaten the financial stability of the U.S. gave investors a list of banks the government deemed as TBTF.