Staggered boards have long played a central role in the debate on the proper relationship between boards of directors and shareholders. Advocates of shareholder empowerment view staggered boards as a quintessential corporate governance failure. Under this view, insulating directors from market discipline diminishes director accountability and encourages self-serving behaviors by incumbents such as shirking, empire building, and private benefits extraction. On the contrary, defendants of staggered boards view staggered boards as an instrument to preserve board stability and strengthen long-term commitments to value creation. This debate notwithstanding, the existing empirical literature to date has strongly supported the claim that board classification seems undesirable, finding that, in the cross-section, staggered boards are associated with lower firm value and negative abnormal returns at economically and statistically significant levels.
Archive for the ‘Empirical Research’ Category
The small company initial public offering (IPO) is dead. In 1997, there were 168 exchange-listed IPOs for companies with an initial market capitalization of less than $75 million. In 2012, there were seven such IPOs, the same number as in 2003.
While there is no doubt that the small company IPO has disappeared, the cause of this decline is uncertain and disputed.
A number of theories have been offered for this decline, but the most prominent theory attributes the decline to increased federal regulation and market structure changes also driven by federal regulation. The explanation for this decline is important, because it has driven passage of the JumpStart Our Business Start-ups Act (the JOBS Act) as well as recently introduced Congressional legislation to mandate decimalization for a five-year period for all companies with a market capitalization of $750 million or below.
In a 17-page memorandum issued by the law firm of Wachtell Lipton (Wachtell), Empiricism and Experience; Activism and Short-Termism; the Real World of Business, the firm’s founder Martin Lipton put forward new criticism of our empirical study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. Lipton’s critique is based on a review of a large number of works which, he asserts, back up empirically the view that our study questions. Following our examination of each of the studies noted by Lipton, this post responds to Lipton’s empirical review. We show that Lipton’s review fails to identify any empirical evidence that is inconsistent with our findings or backs the claim of Wachtell that our study questions.
Our study shows that the myopic activisms claim that Lipton and his firm have long asserted—the claim that that interventions by activist hedge funds are in the long term detrimental to the involved companies and their long-term shareholders—is not supported by the data. Seeking to cast doubt on the validity of our finding, Lipton’s memorandum cites twenty-seven works by academics or policymakers, and asserts that these studies demonstrate that our conclusion—that the myopic activism claims is not supported by the data—is “patently false.” In this post, we explain that this assertion is not supported by the cited studies; most of the studies are not even related to the subject of the consequences of hedge fund activism, and those that are related to it do not provide evidence contradicting our findings.
Below we begin with discussing the relevant background and then review the cited studies and explain why, in contrast to the impression Lipton’s memo seeks to make, they do not provide an empirical basis for the myopic activists view. Instead of running away from the empirical evidence, while constantly shooting back, Wachtell Lipton should accept that its myopic activists claim is not supported by the data. Indeed, as one of us plans to discuss in a separate post, despite its repeated attacks on our study, Wachtell is shifting its position toward avoiding reliance on the myopic activism claim in its opposition to hedge fun activism, and this shift should lead Wachtell and its clients to rethink their attitude to hedge funds activists.
In our paper, CEO Job Security and Risk-Taking, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we use the length of employment contracts to estimate CEO turnover probability and its effects on risk-taking. Protection against dismissal should encourage CEOs to pursue riskier projects. Indeed, we show that firms with lower CEO turnover probability exhibit higher return volatility, especially idiosyncratic risk. An increase in turnover probability of one standard deviation is associated with a volatility decline of 17 basis points. This reduction in risk is driven largely by a decrease in investment and is not associated with changes in compensation incentives or leverage.
Several years ago, the Delaware Supreme Court held, in Revlon v. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, that when a “sale” or “break-up” of a company becomes “inevitable,” the duty of the board of directors is not to maintain the independence of the company or otherwise give priority to long-term considerations, but rather to obtain the highest price possible for the shareholders in the transaction (that is, to maximize short-term value). To satisfy that duty, when confronted with these situations, the board is generally supposed to conduct an auction (or, as clarified in subsequent decisions, a “market check”) that ensures that the final buyer is, in fact, the best bidder available. In the words of the court, in this “inevitable” “break-up” or “sale” scenario (which, however, the court did not precisely define), the directors’ duties shift from “defenders of the corporate bastion to auctioneers charged with getting the best price for the stockholders.”
In our paper, Merger Negotiations with Stock Market Feedback, forthcoming in the Journal of Finance, we investigate whether pre-bid target stock price runups increase bidder takeover costs—an issue of first-order importance for the efficiency of the takeover mechanism. We base our predictions on a simple model with rational market participants and synergistic takeovers. Takeover signals (rumors) received by the market cause market anticipation of deal synergies that drive stock price runups. The model delivers the equilibrium pricing relation between the runup and the subsequent offer price markup (the surprise effect of the bid announcement) that should exist in a sample of observed bids.
In our paper, Are Stock-Financed Takeovers Opportunistic?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we present significant new empirical evidence relevant to the ongoing controversy over whether bidder shares in stock-financed mergers are overpriced. The extant literature is split on this issue, with some studies suggesting that investor misvaluation plays an important role in driving stock-financed mergers—especially during periods of high market valuations and merger waves. Others maintain the neoclassical view of merger activity where takeover synergies emanate from industry-specific productivity shocks. This debate is important because opportunities for selling overpriced bidder shares may result in the most overvalued rather than the most efficient bidder winning the target—distorting corporate resource allocation through the takeover market.
How do shareholders motivate managers to pursue innovations that result in patents when substantial potential costs exist to managers who do so? This question has taken on special importance as promoting these kinds of innovations has become a critical element of not only the competition between companies, but also the competition between nations. In our paper, Motivating Innovation in Newly Public Firms, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, we address this question by providing empirical tests of predictions arising from recent theoretical studies of this issue.
In our paper, Distracted Directors: Does Board Busyness Hurt Shareholder Value?, which was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Financial Economics, we examine the impact of independent director busyness on firm value in a setting that addresses a key challenge that the board of directors is an endogenously determined institution. A large number of publicly-traded firms in the U.S. have recently limited the number of multiple directorships held by their board members. For example, a recent survey shows that 74 percent of S&P 500 firms impose restrictions on the number of corporate directorships held by their independent directors, up from 27 percent in 2006, and the Institutional Shareholder Services recommends restrictions on the number of multiple directorships. Although such shareholder initiatives are consistent with standard theoretical considerations (e.g., Holmstrom and Milgrom, 1992), the empirical evidence on whether director busyness has any effect on the firm is thus far mixed. While several studies find that busy directors are associated with lower firm valuations and less effective monitoring (e.g., Fich and Shivdasani, 2006; Core, Holthausen and Larcker, 1999) others either do not, or provide mixed evidence (e.g., Ferris, Jagannathan and Pritchard, 2003; Field, Lowry, and Mkrtchyan, 2013).
It is often argued that venture capital (VC) plays an important role in promoting innovation and growth. Consistent with this belief, governments around the world have pursued a number of policies aimed at fostering local venture capital activity. The goal of these policies has been to replicate the success of regions like Silicon Valley in the United States. However, there remains scarce evidence that the activities of venture capitalists actually play a causal role in stimulating the creation of innovative and successful companies. Indeed, venture capitalists may simply select companies that are poised to innovate and succeed, even absent their involvement. In this case, efforts by policy-makers to foster local venture capital activity would be misguided. In our paper, The Impact of Venture Capital Monitoring: Evidence from a Natural Experiment, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether the activities of venture capitalists do indeed affect portfolio company outcomes.