Convertible Debt Arbitrage Crashes Revisited

Craig Lewis, Ben Munyan, and Patrick Verwejmeren

This paper examines the severity of the 2008 arbitrage crash in the convertible bond market by estimating how expensive it would have been to liquidate portfolio securities immediately. We consider whether funds actually demanded immediate liquidity or were able to delay trades. Our results indicate that the cost of immediacy was high, but that convertible bond sellers could largely avoid selling at fire sale prices. These results can be explained by dealers recognizing when trades are liquidity-motivated rather than information-based and by a shift to riskless principal trading, allowing dealers to avoid taking bonds into inventory.