In my paper, Opacity in Financial Markets, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, I study the implications of opacity in financial markets for investor behavior, asset prices, and welfare. In the model, transparent funds (e.g., mutual funds) and opaque funds (e.g., hedge funds) trade transparent assets (e.g., plain-vanilla products) and opaque assets (e.g., structured products). Investors observe neither opaque funds’ portfolios nor opaque assets’ payoffs. Consistent with empirical observations, the model predicts an “opacity price premium”: opaque assets trade at a premium over transparent ones despite identical payoffs. This premium arises because fund managers bid up opaque assets’ prices, as opacity potentially allows them to collect higher fees by manipulating investor assessments of their funds’ future prospects. The premium accompanies endogenous market segmentation: transparent funds trade only transparent assets, and opaque funds trade only opaque assets. A novel insight is that opacity is self-feeding in financial markets: given the opacity price premium, financial engineers exploit it by supplying opaque assets (that is, they render transparent assets opaque deliberately), which in turn are a source of agency problems in portfolio delegation, resulting in the opacity price premium.
Archive for the ‘Academic Research’ Category
As a result of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, public firms must periodically hold advisory shareholder votes on executive compensation (“say on pay”). One of the main goals of the say-on-pay mandate is to increase shareholder scrutiny of executive pay, and thus alleviate perceived governance problems when boards decide on executive compensation. In our paper, Does Shareholder Scrutiny Affect Executive Compensation? Evidence from Say-on-Pay Voting, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how firms change the structure and level of executive compensation depending on whether the firm will face a say-on-pay vote or not.
Four years after the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), the use of cost benefit analysis (CBA) in financial regulation has come to play a critical role in an increasingly heated debate concerning the statute’s implementation. Requiring nearly three hundred rule-makings across twenty agencies, Dodd-Frank’s enormous regulatory mandate represents for many an especially dangerous risk of the typical “drift” and “slack” problems long associated with administrative rule-making. The fact that Dodd-Frank was enacted in the midst of an economic recession only heightens these fears, particularly the concern that overworked and/or overzealous agencies might discharge their regulatory mandate by promulgating cost-insensitive regulations. In light of these concerns, a number of Congressional proposals now exist that would subject financial rule-making to more formal CBA reflecting the conventional belief that rigorous CBA can provide much-needed accountability over regulatory agencies.
Severe turmoil in financial markets—whether the Panic of 1826, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, or the Global Financial Crisis of 2008—often raises significant concerns about the effectiveness of pre-existing securities market regulation. In turn, such concerns tend to result in calls for more and stricter government regulation of corporations and financial markets. It is widely considered that the most significant change to U.S. financial regulation in the past 100 years was the Securities Act of 1933 and the subsequent creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to enforce it. Before the SEC creation, federal securities market regulation was essentially absent in the U.S. In our paper, Corporate Governance and the Creation of the SEC, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how companies listing in the U.S. responded to this significant increase in the provision of government-sponsored corporate governance. Specifically, did this landmark legislation have any significant effects on board governance (e.g., the independence of boards) and firm valuations?
In our recent paper, Disclosure and Financial Market Regulation, we provide a critical overview of the role of disclosure in financial market regulation.
We begin by discussing the goals of disclosure regulation, which we identify in investor protection, agency cost reduction and price accuracy enhancement. Disclosure protects investors because (a) it gives them the information that is needed in order to make correct investment decisions, (b) it prevents them from being “exploited” by traders having superior information, and (c) it constrains managers’ and controlling shareholders’ opportunistic behavior. In this last respect, the goal of investor protection equates that of agency cost reduction.
In 2013, CEOs in S&P 500 firms were paid, on average, over 200 times the average worker’s salary in their firms. To avoid or minimize public outrage, managers have a substantial incentive to obscure and try to legitimize their excessive compensation. One way of doing so is to have “independent” compensation consultants recommend higher pay to the board. However, prior literature has not been able to find significant evidence that hiring consultants leads to higher pay, partly because the information is only available after 2006 and most studies on this topic examine one or two years after 2006.
The incentive to take socially costly financial risks is inherent in banking: because of the interconnected nature of banking, one bank’s failure can increase the risk of failure of another bank even if they do not have a contractual relationship. If numerous banks collapse, the sudden withdrawal of credit from the economy hurts third parties who depend on loans to finance consumption and investment. The perverse incentive to take financial risk is further aggravated by underpriced government-supplied insurance and the government’s readiness to play the role of lender of last resort.
In a landmark vote, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly decided on September 9 to begin work on a multilateral legal framework—effectively a treaty or convention—for sovereign debt restructuring, in order to improve the global financial system. The resolution was introduced by Bolivia on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing nations and China. In part, it was sparked by recent litigation in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that, to comply with a pari passu clause (imposing an equal-and-ratable repayment obligation), Argentina could not pay holders of exchanged bonds without also paying holdouts who retained the original bonds. That decision was all the more dramatic because the holdouts included hedge funds—sometimes characterized as “vulture funds”—that purchased the original bonds at a deep discount, yet sued for full payment.
In response to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) in July 2010. Among its various provisions, Dodd-Frank outlines a series of broad reforms to the Credit Rating Agencies (CRA) market. Many observers believe that CRAs’ inflated ratings of structured finance products were partly to blame for the rapid growth and subsequent collapse of the shadow banking system. In response, Dodd-Frank’s CRA provisions significantly increase CRAs’ liability for issuing inaccurate ratings, and make it easier for the SEC to impose sanctions and bring claims against CRAs for material misstatements and fraud.
One might be tempted to conclude that good risk management in banks reduces the exposure to danger. However, such a view of risk management ignores that banks cannot succeed without taking risks that are ex ante profitable. Consequently, taking actions that reduce risk can be costly for shareholders when lower risk means avoiding valuable investments and activities that have higher risk. Therefore, from the perspective of shareholders, better risk management cannot mean risk management that is more effective at reducing risk in general since reducing risk in general would mean not taking valuable projects. If good risk management does not mean low risk, then what does it mean? How is it implemented? What are its limitations? What can be done to make it more effective? In my article, Governance, Risk Management, and Risk-Taking in Banks, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I provide a framework to understand the role, the organization, and the limitations of risk management in banks when it is designed from the perspective of increasing the value of the bank for its shareholders and review the existing literature.