Is greater trading liquidity good or bad for corporate governance? In the paper, Liquidity and Governance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, my co-authors (Kerry Back and Tao Li) and I address this question both theoretically and empirically. A liquid secondary market in shares facilitates capital formation but may be deleterious for corporate governance. Bhide (1993) argues that greater liquidity reduces the cost to a blockholder of selling her stake in response to managerial problems (‘taking the Wall Street walk’), resulting in too little monitoring by large shareholders. Bhide’s work has spawned an active literature on the effects of liquidity on governance. The present paper makes two contributions to that literature: (i) we solve a theoretical model consisting of an IPO followed by a dynamic Kyle (1985) market in which the large investor’s private information concerns her own plans for taking an active role in governance and show that greater liquidity leads to lower blockholder activism, and (ii) we verify the negative theoretical relation between liquidity and activism using three distinct natural experiments.
Archive for the ‘Empirical Research’ Category
In our paper, The Effect of Audit Committee Industry Expertise on Monitoring the Financial Reporting Process, forthcoming in The Accounting Review, we examine the impact of audit committee (AC) industry expertise on the AC’s effectiveness in monitoring the financial reporting process. Despite the increased responsibilities, authority, independence, and financial expertise requirements placed on ACs by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), ACs may, nonetheless, lack sufficient industry expertise to understand and thus properly monitor complex industry specific accounting issues. For instance, expertise in the retail industry may assist ACs to ensure that companies take an adequate write-down of inventory when their products face potential obsolescence. Similarly, revenue recognition, a prominent area of accounting manipulation (Beasley et al. 2000, 2010), entails an evaluation and understanding of the earnings process, which is tied to a company’s business processes that are often industry specific.
Research on the composition and structure of the board of directors is a thriving subject in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The discussion thus far has assumed that finding the right board members is extremely important because they tend to enhance corporate strategy and decision-making. Consider the case of Apple’s board. Following Steve Jobs’ return to the firm in 1997, he understood well the important role of the board of directors to both improve company productivity and build relationships with its suppliers and customers. In order for the board of directors to become a competitive advantage and help carry Apple forward, its members needed to have a thorough understanding of the computer industry and the firm’s products. Accordingly, a change in the composition of the board of directors was arguably a necessary first step to bring back focus, relevance and interaction (with the outside world) to the company in its journey to introduce disruptive innovations and creative products to its customers. The result was impressive: Between August 6th, 1997 (the day the “new” board was introduced) and August 23rd, 2011 (the last day of Jobs as the CEO of Apple), the stock price soared from $25.25 to $360.30, increasing 1,327 per cent.
In my paper, Zombie Boards: Board Tenure and Firm Performance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I empirically investigate how board tenure is related to firm performance and corporate decisions, holding other firm, CEO, and board characteristics constant. I find that board tenure has an inverted U-shaped relation with firm value, and that this curvilinear relation is reflected in M&A performance, financial reporting quality, corporate strategies and innovation, executive compensation, and CEO replacement. The results indicate that, for firms with short-tenured boards, the marginal effect of board learning dominates entrenchment effects, whereas for firms that have long-tenured boards, the opposite is true.
The analysis relies on the assumption that some transaction costs prevent boards from fully adjusting to their optimal tenure level. But what are those transaction costs? For long-tenured boards, transaction costs could take the form of agency costs. For instance, board tenure choice may reflect the extent to which CEOs have influence over the board selection process (Hermalin and Weisbach, 1998). Further, firms with staggered boards can only replace a portion of board member each year, in which case the use of a staggered board itself introduces agency problems (Bebchuk and Cohen, 2005). For short-tenured boards, transaction costs could take the form of frictions in the labor market for directors.
In a recent article, entitled Fact and Fiction in Corporate Law and Governance, I evaluate two broad elements of corporate governance scholarship—one conceptual and the other methodological. The conceptual element is the “contractarian” framework within which legal academics have analyzed corporate law since the 1980s. My evaluation is not aimed at the characterization of a corporation as a nexus of voluntary associations—a characterization that I think most of us share—but rather at the belief among some legal scholars that market forces lead to optimal governance arrangements within firms, and that a market dynamic leads states to compete to provide value-maximizing corporate law rules. The methodological element that I address is the use of corporate governance indices in empirical studies of corporate governance, an approach that dates back to the 1990s but that became widespread following Gompers, Ishii and Metrick’s development of the G Index in 2003.
In our paper, Determinants and Trading Performance of Equity Deferral Choices by Corporate Outside Directors, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we investigate the determinants and trading performance of outside directors’ “equity deferrals,” which represent the choice to convert part or all of the current cash compensation into deferred company stock. Director equity deferrals are interesting for two reasons. First, by deferring, the directors give up a sure amount of cash today for firm stock with an uncertain future value, while at the same time substantially increasing the proportion of their compensation that is tied to future firm performance. Second, the equity deferrals can become a form of insider trading, because directors can use these options as a tax-advantaged alternative to open-market purchases of the firm’s stock.
We examine director equity deferrals using a hand-collected sample of U.S. firms that allowed outside board members to defer their cash compensation into equity between 1999 and 2003. We first focus on the factors affecting director equity deferral choices. Consistent with a certainty equivalent story, we find that directors are more likely to defer cash into equity when they receive higher cash compensation levels and when the plans offer premiums for deferrals made into equity. Deferral likelihood also increases with the size of the taxes that are deferred.
In our paper, Shareholder Votes and Proxy Advisors: Evidence from Say on Pay, which was recently accepted for publication at the Journal of Accounting Research, my co-authors (Yonca Ertimur of the University of Colorado at Boulder and David Oesch of the University of St. Gallen) and I examine the economic role of proxy advisors. As non-binding shareholder votes have come to increasingly affect firms’ governance practices, there has been growing interest in understanding the value of proxy advisors’ recommendations, a key driver of shareholder votes.
To shed light on this question, we follow the entire process surrounding proxy advisor activities and examine the analyses underlying proxy advisor recommendations, how firms, stock prices and voting shareholders respond to the release of these recommendations, firms’ reactions to the votes triggered by them and, ultimately, whether they have an impact on firm value. The setting we use for our examination is based on the analyses provided by the two most influential proxy advisors, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis & Co. (GL) to arrive at voting recommendations for the non-binding shareholder vote on executive pay mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, commonly known as say-on-pay (SOP).
Shleifer and Vishny (1997) explain that “corporate governance deals with the ways in which the suppliers of finance to corporations assure themselves of getting a return on their investment.” The fundamental feature of corporate governance is shareholders’ right to elect directors to represent their interests. This shareholder representation by the board of directors is a central component of corporate governance. For corporate governance to be effective, shareholders who are dissatisfied with a board’s performance must have a mechanism to replace directors. If shareholders’ impact on electing and replacing directors is weak, so is the connection between owners and managers.
In our paper, Shareholder Democracy in Play: Career Consequences of Proxy Contests, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, my co-author, Margarita Tsoutsoura, and I investigate whether proxy contests affect the careers of directors whose companies have been targeted. Specifically, the paper aims to shed light on whether shareholders are able impose a career cost on directors when they are dissatisfied with firm performance. This question is particularly important in today’s environment when activist shareholders often demand reforms in corporate governance. For example, the process of shareholders nominating and electing directors was at the heart of the recent (failed) proxy-access reform that was motivated by the Dodd-Frank Act. Proponents of the reform argued its necessity in increasing the power of shareholders to be able to elect or remove directors from the board (Bebchuk, 2007). On the other hand, critics of this view argued that shareholders already have tools to hold directors accountable (Bainbridge, 2006).
An issue of considerable interest to accounting researchers is the association between shareholders and firms’ financial reporting quality (FRQ). In our paper, Blockholder Heterogeneity and Financial Reporting Quality, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine a specific type of shareholder, blockholders, because (1) they offer a sample of shareholders that are expected to have a significant impact on firms’ financial reporting decisions and (2) we are able to track individual blockholders and their association with FRQ. As discussed in more detail below, these two sample design features allow us to provide a test of the extent to which (large) shareholders influence FRQ. Blockholders also provide an interesting and economically important sample because of their large presence in U.S. capital markets in recent years.
In our paper, Equity Vesting and Managerial Myopia, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we study the link between real investment decisions and the vesting horizon of a CEO’s equity incentives. We find that research and development (“R&D”) is negatively associated with the stock price sensitivity of stock and options that vest over the course of the same year. This association continues to hold when including advertising and capital expenditure in the investment measure. Moreover, CEOs with significant newly-vesting equity are more likely to meet or beat analyst consensus forecasts by a narrow margin. However, the market recognizes such CEOs’ incentives to inflate earnings—the lower announcement returns to meet or beating earnings forecasts are decreasing in the sensitivity of vesting equity. These results provide empirical support for managerial myopia theories.
Many academics and practitioners believe that managerial myopia is a first-order problem faced by the modern firm. While the 20th century firm emphasized cost efficiency, Porter (1992) argues that “the nature of competition has changed, placing a premium on investment in increasingly complex and intangible forms,” such as innovation, employee training, and organizational development. However, the myopia theories of Stein (1988, 1989) show that managers may fail to invest due to concerns with the firm’s short-term stock price. Since the benefits of intangible investment are only visible in the long run, the immediate effect of such investment is to depress earnings and thus the current stock price. Therefore, a manager aligned with the short-term stock price may turn down valuable investment opportunities.