We have recently released a paper, entitled The Dark Role of Investment Banks in the Market for Corporate Control. Our paper studies M&A transactions in the US in the 20 year-period 1984 to 2003. Its focus is on transactions in which the investment bank advising the bidder in an M&A transaction also holds a stake in the shares of the target company at the time the deal was announced. In broad terms, the paper provides evidence as to (1) the extent to which investment banks advising bidders took advantage of confidential information garnered from their advisory assignments to acquire stakes in the target prior to the deal’s announcement; and (2) the extent to which the investment bank’s stake in the target compromised the financial interests of the bank’s bidder client.
We show that the presence of advisors helps to predict if a firm will be a takeover target. Conditioning on firms with similar industry and size characteristics, firms in which the advisors to the bidder hold a stake are 45 percentage points more likely to become targets, with the probability of becoming a target increasing from the unconditional sample mean of 4.2% to 6.1%. When we build the trading strategy long in the actual positions of the advising investment banks and short in the positions of the non-advisory banks, we find the strategy delivers 1.40% per month (adjusted for risk). This provides a lower bound estimate of the informational advantage that the advisory bank has relative to other sophisticated market players.
We further show that where an investment bank advising the bidder holds a stake in the target, the bidder will pay a higher premium for the target relative to deals in which the advisor holds no target stake. The target’s premium increases by 590 basis points from 30.6% to 36.5% relative to non-conflicted deals. An increase of one standard deviation in the (dollar value of the) average fraction of the target firm held by the advisor to the bidder implies a premium 310 (290) basis points higher than average. Deals involving the bidder’s advisor holding a stake in the target are more likely to succeed than other deals. Moreover, targets in these deals tend to be overvalued by more than 10% compared to deals in which the bidder’s advisor holds no target stake.
These findings suggest that advisors do take advantage of their privileged position, not only by acquiring positions in the deals on which they advise, but also by directly affecting the outcome of the deal in order to realize higher capital gains from their positions. These results provide important insights into the conflicts of interest affecting financial intermediaries that can both advise on corporate events and invest in the equity market.
The paper is available here.