Unearthing Zombies
Author(s) Nirupama Kulkarni, S. K. Ritadhi, Siddharth Vij and KatherineWaldock


The secular rise of “zombie" borrowers, insolvent firms sustained by continued extension of credit by complicit banks, has been a source of concern for mature and emerging economies alike. Using supervisory data on the universe of large bank-borrower relationships in India, we introduce a novel method for identifying zombies. Although there was widespread non-disclosure of zombies in India in 2014, the beginning of the sample period, there have been major improvements since. We examine changes in zombie reporting around two key policy changes: an overhaul of the bankruptcy code and a regulatory intervention removing lender discretion in bad loan recognition. Increases in reporting were modest after the bankruptcy reform but there was a sizable jump in the recognition of zombies after the regulatory intervention. Post-intervention results show that lending has been reallocated to large, healthy borrowers. However, under-reporting still exists, particularly among public-sector banks. Overall, our results indicate that regulatory action might be necessary, above and beyond bankruptcy reform, to target “zombie" lending.

Download Paper