Crime and Punishment: Do politicians in power receive special treatment in courts? Evidence from India (Job market paper)

An independent and impartial judicial system is essential for a well-functioning democracy and the economy. Despite constitutional guarantees, in practice, elected politicians may substantially influence the legal system. This paper studies whether politicians in power receive special treatment in courts when facing criminal accusations. I construct a unique panel of criminal cases for candidates for state Legislative Assemblies in India. I compare the probability of a pending criminal case being closed without conviction at the end of a legislature for politicians who barely won the election against those who barely lost it. This paper uncovers opposite effects of winning office, depending on the political alignment with the state ruling party. Winners from the state ruling party are more likely to get their pending criminal cases closed without conviction during their period in office. In contrast, winners from other parties are less likely to get their pending criminal cases closed without conviction during the same time-frame. The result can be rationalized by the (mis)use of certain attributions vested on the Executive power over law officials with career concerns.

Media Coverage: Ideas for India (English), Ideas for India (Hindi), The Print, livemint, Nada es Gratis

Holding politicians accountable: Reputation shocks, and politicians’ reaction

Do incumbents react to information affecting their reputation? This paper focuses on Brazilian mayoral elections and municipal audits to study whether incumbents adapt their campaign expenditure to detrimental or beneficial information shocks impacting their reputation. The results show that candidates adapt their effort in campaigning. A detrimental (beneficial) shock results in incumbents increasing (decreasing) the amount of resources spent on campaigning. The results show that incumbents’ response on campaign expenditure partially compensates the negative (positive) effect produced by the information on electoral outcomes. Incumbents’ ability to react might explain why more information does not always imply more electoral accountability.

A contest model with reference-dependent preferences

This paper introduces a two-stage contest model with reference-dependent preferences to study the determinants of conflict and its intensity. I show the existence of a Subgame Perfect Nash equilibrium in pure strategies, and characterize the properties of the equilibrium. The model shows that reference points play a crucial role in the decision of waging war, and in the level of intensity of the conflict. The model delivers predictions in line with the evidence, and explains empirical regularities that previous models cannot account for. The model encompasses two of the most common empirical patterns found in the conflict literature. Conflicts are more likely to occur after negative income shocks due to the current situation being perceived as a loss compared to agents' reference points. Additionally, income reduces the odds of conflict if agents are more risk-averse for gains than risk-seeker for losses.


Equilibrium with limited-recourse collateralized loans (2013) with J.P. Torres-Martínez, Economic Theory, 53: 181.

We address a general equilibrium model with limited-recourse collateralized loans and securitization of debts. Each borrower is required to pledge physical collateral, and bankruptcy is filed against him if claims are not fully honored. Moreover, agents have a positive amount of wealth exempt from garnishment and, for at least a fraction of them, commodities used as collateral are desirable. In this context, equilibrium exists for any continuous garnishment rule and multiple types of reimbursement mechanisms.