In the paper, The Sensitivity of Corporate Cash Holdings to Corporate Governance, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, my co-authors (Qi Chen, Xiao Chen, Yongxin Xu, and Jian Xue) and I analyze the change in cash holdings of a large sample of Chinese-listed firms associated with the split share structure reform that required nontradable shares held by controlling shareholders to be converted to tradable shares, subject to shareholder approval and adequate compensation to tradable shareholders. The reform removed a substantial market friction and gave controlling shareholders a clear incentive to care about share prices, because they could benefit from share value increases by selling some of their shares for cash.
We predict and find that this governance improvement led to reduced cash holdings of affected firms, and that the effect is more pronounced for private firms than for state-owned enterprises (SOEs), for firms with more agency conflicts, and for firms for which financial constraints are most binding. We interpret these results as consistent with both a direct free cash flow channel and an indirect financial constraint channel. These results are robust to several alternative specifications that address concerns about endogeneity and concomitant effects. They provide strong evidence that governance arrangements affect firms’ cash holdings and cash management behaviors. To the extent that cash management is a key operational decision that affects firm value, our findings suggest an important mechanism for corporate governance to affect firm value.