Category Archives: Empirical Research

Pro Forma Compensation

David Larcker is Professor of Accounting at Stanford University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Larcker; Brian Tayan, Researcher with the Corporate Governance Research Initiative at Stanford University; and Youfei Xiao of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In recent years, companies have begun to voluntarily disclose supplemental calculations of executive compensation beyond those required by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the annual proxy. Our paper, Pro Forma Compensation: Useful Insight or Window-Dressing?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, examines the motivation to disclose adjusted compensation and the prevalence of this practice.

Corporate disclosure of executive compensation is regulated by the SEC and is reported in the annual proxy Compensation Discussion & Analysis section and various summary compensation tables. These figures are widely cited by corporate observers, and in many cases used to rank (and criticize) corporations for their pay practices.

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Why University Endowments are Large and Risky

Thomas Gilbert is an Assistant Professor of Finance & Business Economics at the University of Washington. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Gilbert and Christopher Hrdlicka, Assistant Professor of Finance & Business Economics at the University of Washington.

Universities as perpetual ivory towers, though often meant as a pejorative, describes well universities’ special place in society as centers of learning with a mission distinct from that of businesses. Universities create new knowledge via research while preserving and spreading that knowledge through teaching. The social good aspect of universities makes donations critical to funding their mission. But rather than investing these donations internally to build the metaphorical towers higher and shine the light of learning more widely, universities have built large endowments invested heavily in risky financial assets.

In our paper, Why Are University Endowments Large and Risky?, forthcoming at The Review of Financial Studies, we model how universities’ objectives, investment opportunities (internal and external) and public policy, specifically the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA), interact to create this behavior. Our findings suggest a reevaluation of UPMIFA’s ability to achieve its goal of maintaining donor intent in light of the costs it imposes on universities.

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Do Takeover Defenses Deter Takeovers?

Jonathan Karpoff is Professor of Finance at the University of Washington. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Karpoff; Robert Schonlau, Assistant Professor of Finance at Brigham Young University; and Eric Wehrly, Finance Instructor at Seattle University. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes What Matters in Corporate Governance? by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen and Allen Ferrell (discussed on the Forum here), The Costs of Entrenched Boards by Lucian Bebchuk and Alma Cohen, and The Case Against Board Veto in Corporate Takeovers by Lucian Bebchuk.

The G-index and E-index are workhorses of empirical corporate finance research. Each counts the number of takeover defenses a firm has and is often used as a summary measure of the firm’s protection from unsolicited takeover bids. But do these indices actually measure takeover deterrence?

This is an important question because a substantial number of empirical findings and their interpretations are based on the assumption that takeover defense indices do indeed measure takeover deterrence. For example, researchers have used the G-index and E-index to examine whether takeover defenses are associated with various firm outcomes including low stock returns, low firm value, acquisition returns, takeover premiums, increased risk taking, internal capital markets, credit risk and pricing, operating performance, the value and use of cash holdings, and corporate innovation. Researchers also have used takeover indices to examine whether takeover defenses serve primarily to entrench managers at shareholders’ expense, or to increase firm value through bargaining or contractual bonding.

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Understanding the US Listing Gap

René Stulz is Professor of Finance at Ohio State University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Stulz; Craig Doidge, Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Toronto; and Andrew Karolyi, Professor of Finance at Cornell University.

The number of publicly-listed firms in the U.S. peaked in 1996 at 8,025. In that year, the U.S. had 30 listings per million inhabitants. By 2012, it had only 13, or 56% less. Importantly, the decrease in listings occurred in all industries and across both the NYSE and Nasdaq. In our new working paper, entitled The U.S. Listing Gap, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we show that this evolution is specific to the U.S. Listings in the rest of the world, in fact, increased over the same period. The U.S. has developed a “listing gap” relative to other countries with similar investor protection, economic growth, and overall wealth. The listing gap arises in the late 1990s and widens over time. It is statistically significant, economically large, and robust to different measurement approaches. We also find that the U.S. has a listing gap when compared to its own recent history and after controlling for changing capital market conditions.

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Do Women Stay Out of Trouble?

Anup Agrawal is Professor of Finance at the University of Alabama. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Agrawal; Binay Adhikari, Visiting Assistant Professor of Finance at Miami University; and James Malm, Assistant Professor of Finance at the College of Charleston.

Does the presence of women in a firm’s top management team affect the risk of the firm being sued? A large literature in economics and psychology finds that women tend be more risk-averse, less overconfident, and more law-abiding than men. As more women reach top management positions, these gender differences have implications for firms’ policies and performance. As Neelie Kroes, then European Competition Commissioner provocatively asked in a speech at the World Economic Forum, “If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, would the financial crisis have happened like it did?” (see New York Times, February 1, 2009).

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Corporate Governance and Diversity

Aaron A. Dhir is an Associate Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada. The post is based on Professor Dhir’s book, Challenging Boardroom Homogeneity: Corporate Law, Governance, and Diversity (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Earlier this year, Germany joined the ranks of countries such as Norway, France, Italy, Belgium, and Iceland by enacting a quota to increase the number of women in its corporate boardrooms. Starting in 2016, both genders must make-up at least 30 percent of specified German companies’ supervisory boards.

The news from Germany provoked decidedly negative reactions in major media outlets. In the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Economist, critics questioned the soundness of pursuing positive discrimination in the corporate governance arena. The reality, however, is that we actually know very little about how corporate quotas have worked in practice. Advocates and detractors each suggest that these measures will alter the effectiveness and dynamics of firms in some way—whether for better or worse. But the speculation remains largely uncorroborated and our knowledge is incomplete at best.
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Securities Class Action Filings—2015 Midyear Assessment

John Gould is senior vice president at Cornerstone Research. This post is based on a report from the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and Cornerstone Research; the full publication is available here.

Plaintiffs brought 85 new federal class action securities cases in the first half of 2015, according to Securities Class Action Filings—2015 Midyear Assessment, a report compiled by Cornerstone Research and the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse. This represents a decrease from the second half of 2014, when plaintiffs filed 92 securities class actions. The number of filings in the first six months of 2015 remains 10 percent below the semiannual average of 94 observed between 1997 and 2014—the seventh consecutive semiannual period below the historical average.

Despite this period of little overall change in filing activity, securities class actions against companies headquartered outside the United States increased in the first half of 2015. Twenty filings, or 24 percent of the total, targeted foreign firms. Asian firms were named in more than half of these cases.

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The Iliad and the IPO

Andrew A. Schwartz is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School. This post is based on Professor Schwartz’s recent article published in The Harvard Business Law Review, available here.

Many public companies have shed takeover defenses in recent years, on the theory that such defenses reduce share price. Yet new data presented in my latest article, Corporate Legacy, shows that practically all new public companies—those launching their initial public offering (IPO)—go public with powerful takeover defenses in place, which presumably depresses the price of the shares. This behavior seems strange, as pre-IPO shareholders both have a strong incentive to maximize the value of the shares being sold in the IPO and are in position to control whether to adopt takeover defenses. Why do founders and early investors engage in this seemingly counterproductive behavior? In Corporate Legacy, I look to a surprising place, the ancient Greek epic poem, the Iliad, for a solution to this important puzzle, and claim that pre-IPO shareholders adopt strong takeover defenses, at least in part, so that the company can remain independent indefinitely and thus create a corporate legacy that may last for generations.

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A Framework for Understanding Financial Institutions

Robert Merton is Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Merton and Richard Thakor, also of the Finance Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Many financial intermediaries provide “credit-sensitive” financial services—the effective delivery of these services depends on the credit-worthiness of the provider. This potential sensitivity of the perceived value of the intermediary’s services to the intermediary’s credit risk has important ramifications. In the paper, Customers and Investors: A Framework for Understanding Financial Institutions, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how this affects the design of contracts between intermediaries and their customers, and how it illuminates ubiquitous features in a wide variety of contracts, institutions, and regulatory practices.

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Corporate Investment in ESG Practices

Matteo Tonello is managing director at The Conference Board, Inc. This post relates to an issue of The Conference Board’s Director Notes series and was authored by Mr. Tonello and Thomas Singer. The complete publication, including footnotes and Appendix, is available here.

Corporate investment in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices has been widely investigated in recent years. Studies show that a business corporation may benefit from these resource allocations on multiple levels, ranging from higher market and accounting performance to improved reputation and stakeholder relations. However, poor data quality and the lack of a universally adopted framework for the disclosure of extra-financial information have hindered the field of research. This post reviews empirical analyses of the return on investment in ESG initiatives, outlines five pillars of the business case for corporate sustainability, and discusses why the positive correlations found by some academics remain disputed by others.

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