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We investigate whether cultural differences between professional decision-makers affect financial contracts in a large dataset of international syndicated bank loans. We find that more culturally distant lead banks offer borrowers smaller loans at a higher interest rate and are more likely to require third-party guarantees. These effects do not disappear following repeated interaction between borrower and lender and are economically sizable: A one-standard-deviation increase in cultural distance, approximately the distance between Canada and the U.S. or between Japan and South Korea, is associated with a 6.5 basis point higher loan spread; the loan spread increases by about 23 basis points if the bank-firm match involves culturally more distant parties, for example, from Japan and the U.S. We also find that cultural differences not only affect the relation between borrower and lender, but also hamper risk sharing between participant banks and culturally distant lead banks.

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