Despite serious concerns about the quality of auditing and financial reporting of U.S.-listed Chinese firms, the SEC and the PCAOB have been unable to provide sufficient or timely information to U.S. investors due to resource constraints, the confidentiality rules underlying the PCAOB disciplinary proceedings, and no access to relevant work papers of Chinese auditors. In the paper, The Informational Role of Internet-Based Short Sellers, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I focus on a new breed of information intermediary, i.e. Internet-based short sellers that have emerged in response to such regulatory loopholes and severe information asymmetry. Based on hand-collected Internet reports released during the 2009-2012 period by short sellers that target U.S.-listed Chinese firms, I find that these short sellers provide substantial information both directly and indirectly to investors.
Archive for the ‘Academic Research’ Category
The recent discussions surrounding Michael Lewis’s new book, Flash Boys, revealed a profound and uncomfortable truth about modern finance to the public and policymakers: Machines are taking over Wall Street. Artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and supercomputers have replaced human intelligence, human deliberation, and human execution in many aspects of finance. The modern financial industry is becoming faster, larger, more complex, more global, more interconnected, and less human. An industry once dominated by humans has evolved into one where humans and machines share dominion.
In our paper, Has Persistence Persisted in Private Equity? Evidence from Buyout and Venture Capital Funds, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we use detailed cash-flow data to study the persistence of buyout and VC fund performance over successive funds. We confirm the previous findings that there was significant persistence in performance, using various measures, for pre-2000 funds—particularly for VC funds. Post-2000, we find that persistence of buyout fund performance has fallen considerably. When funds are sorted by the quartile of performance of their previous funds, performance of the current fund is statistically indistinguishable regardless of quartile. At the same time, however, the returns to buyout funds in all previous performance quartiles, including the bottom, have exceeded those of public markets as measured by the S&P 500.
In our paper, In Short Supply: Equity Overvaluation and Short Selling, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we use detailed equity lending data to examine the role of constraints on equity prices. We find that constrained stocks underperform, the short interest ratio (SIR) has a nonlinear association with constraints, constrained stocks have negative returns regardless of short interest ratio, high short interest yet unconstrained stocks do not underperform, yet low short interest unconstrained stocks outperform. Moreover, we show that limited supply is a key feature distinguishing constrained and unconstrained stocks, and that among constrained stocks, those with the lowest supply have the strongest negative returns. Our findings confirm that supply varies across firms (in contrast to SIR, which assumes supply is 100 percent of outstanding shares for all stocks) and short supply in the equity lending market has implications for the informational efficiency of equity prices.
Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger is well known as the partner of CEO Warren Buffett and also for his advocacy of “multi-disciplinary thinking”—the application of fundamental concepts from across various academic disciplines to solve complex real-world problems. One problem that Munger has addressed over the years is the optimal system of corporate governance. How should an organization be structured to encourage ethical behavior among organizational participants and motivate decision-making in the best interest of shareholders? His solution is unconventional by the standards of governance today and somewhat at odds with regulatory guidelines. However, the insights that Munger provides represent a contrast to current “best practices” and suggest the potential for alternative solutions to improve corporate performance and executive behavior. In our paper, Corporate Governance According to Charles T. Munger, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine this solution in greater detail.
Shareholder voting, once given up for dead as a vestige or ritual of little practical importance, has come roaring back as a key part of American corporate governance. Where once voting was limited to uncontested annual election of directors, it is now common to see short slate proxy contests, board declassification proposals, and “Say on Pay” votes occurring at public companies. The surge in the importance of shareholder voting has caused increased conflict between shareholders and directors, a tension well-illustrated in recent high profile voting fights in takeovers (e.g. Dell) and in the growing role for Say on Pay votes. Yet, despite the obvious importance of shareholder voting, none of the existing corporate law theories coherently justify it.
In my paper, Beyond Efficiency in Securities Regulation, recently made available on SSRN, I argue that the emergence of algorithmic trading calls into question the foundation underpinning today’s securities laws: the understanding that securities prices reflect all available information in the market. Securities regulation has long looked to the Efficient Capital Markets Hypothesis (ECMH) for theoretical validation to ground its most central tenets like mandatory disclosure, the Fraud-on-the-Market presumption in Rule 10b-5 litigation, as well as the architecture of today’s system of interconnected exchanges. It is easy to understand why. Laws that make markets more informative should also make them better at communicating with investors and in allocating capital across the economy. In this paper, I suggest that this connection between informational and allocative efficiencies can no longer be so readily assumed in the age of algorithmic trading. In other words, even as algorithmic trading pushes markets to achieve ever-greater levels of informational efficiency, able to process vast swathes of data in milliseconds, understanding what this information means for the purposes of capital allocation seems ever more uncertain. Recognizing that notions of informational efficiency are growing disconnected from the market’s ability to also interpret what this information signifies for capital allocation, this paper proposes a thoroughgoing rethinking about the centrality of efficiency economics in regulatory design.
A recent and groundbreaking decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasburg might shatter the entire structure of the Italian and European regulation of market abuse (insider trading and market manipulations). The case is “Grand Stevens and others v. Italy”, and was decided on March 4, 2014.
The facts can be briefly summarized as follows. In 2005, the corporations that controlled the car manufacturer Fiat, renegotiated a financial contract (equity swap) with Merrill Lynch. One of the goals of the agreement was to maintain control over Fiat without being required to launch a mandatory tender offer. Consob, the Italian securities and exchange commission, initiated an administrative action against the corporation and some of its managers and consultants, accusing them of not having properly disclosed the renegotiation of the contract to the market. The procedure resulted in heavy financial fines (for some individuals, up to 5 million euro), and additional measures prohibiting some of the people involved from serving as corporate directors and practicing law. At the same time, a criminal investigation was launched for the same facts. It is not necessary here to discuss the merits of the controversy, it is sufficient to mention that the sanctioned parties challenged the sanctions in Italian courts, but did not prevail.
Much corporate finance research is concerned with causation—does a change in some input cause a change in some output? Does corporate governance affect firm performance? Does capital structure affect firm investments? How do corporate acquisitions affect the value of the acquirer, or the acquirer and target together? Without a causal link, we lack a strong basis for recommending that firms change their behavior or that governments adopt specific reforms. Consider, for example, corporate governance research. Decisionmakers—corporate boards, investors, and regulators—need to know whether governance causes value, before they decide to change the governance of a firm (or all firms in a country) with the goal of increasing firm value or improving other firm or market outcomes. If researchers provide evidence only on association between governance and outcomes, decisionmakers may adopt changes based on flawed data that may lead to adverse consequences for particular firms.
We have recently revised our paper Rethinking Basic (discussed earlier on the Forum here). Our revision, which will be published in the May issue of the Business Lawyer, takes into account, and relates our analysis to, the Justices’ questions at the Halliburton oral argument. As our revision explains, questions asked by some of the Justices at the oral argument suggest that the fraudulent distortion approach we support might appeal to the Court.
In the Halliburton case, the United States Supreme Court is expected to reconsider the Basic ruling that, twenty-five years ago, adopted the fraud-on-the-market theory, which has since facilitated securities class action litigation. Our paper seeks to contribute to this reconsideration by providing a conceptual and economic framework for a reexamination of the Basic rule.