Tag: Firm performance

The Product Market Effects of Hedge Fund Activism

Praveen Kumar is Professor of Finance at the University of Houston. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Kumar and Hadiye Aslan, Assistant Professor of Finance at Georgia State University, available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here), The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here), The Law and Economics of Blockholder Disclosure by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert J. Jackson Jr. (discussed on the Forum here), and Pre-Disclosure Accumulations by Activist Investors: Evidence and Policy by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Robert J. Jackson Jr., and Wei Jiang.

Whether intervention by activist investors, such as hedge funds, is beneficial or detrimental to the shareholders of target firms remains controversial. Proponents marshal considerable empirical evidence that hedge fund activism (HFA) is associated with significant medium-to-long-run improvements in targets’ cost and investment efficiency, profitability, productivity, and shareholder returns. Opponents, however, insist that HFA forces management to take myopic decisions that weaken firms in the longer run. The debate rages in academia, media, and has already featured in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Despite this intense interest, however, the research on the effects HFA has typically focused only on its impact on the performance of target firms. But targets of HFA do not exist in vacuum; they have industry competitors, suppliers, and customers. It is by now well known that HFA has a broad scope that often—simultaneously or sequentially—touches on virtually every major aspect of company management, including changes in product market strategy, negotiation tactics with suppliers and customers, and knowledge-based technical advice of production organization. In particular, HFA that improves target’s cost efficiency and product differentiation, and generally redesigns its competitive strategy, should have a significant impact on the target’s competitors (or rival firms). This prediction follows from basic principles of strategic interaction among firms in oligopolistic interaction. Indeed, the received theory of industrial organization provides the effects of cost improvements and product differentiation on rivals’ equilibrium profits and market shares.


Big Data and Analytics in the Audit Process

Ruby Sharma is a principal at the EY Center for Board Matters. The following post is based on a report from the EY Center for Board Matters, available here.

In today’s business environment characterized by constant disruption, slow growth and uncertainty, boards face more challenges than ever in creating a risk-aware corporate culture and establishing sound risk governance and controls.

In just the last few years, the terms “big data” and “analytics” have become hot topics in company boardrooms around the world.

For many, embracing big data and analytics is crucial to keeping their organization nimble, competitive and profitable. Board members need to understand the complexities and have a grasp of the issues surrounding these technology trends. Equally important, they should be prepared to ask the right questions of the executives in charge of big data and analytics initiatives.

The Limits of Using TSR as an Incentive Measure

David N. Swinford is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Pearl Meyer & Partners, LLC. This post relates to research conducted by Pearl Meyer and the Cornell University ILR School’s Institute for Compensation Studies.

The widespread and growing use of total shareholder return (TSR) as an incentive measure is not the panacea many believe it to be. To test our point of view we wanted to explore one critical question: Does the inclusion of TSR measures in long-term incentive plans result in improved firm performance?

To find out the answer, Pearl Meyer collaborated with the Cornell University ILR School’s Institute for Compensation Studies to conduct original research on the use of TSR by S&P 500 companies over a ten year period.


Active Ownership

Oğuzhan Karakaş is Assistant Professor of Finance at Boston College. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Karakaş; Elroy Dimson, Professor of Finance at London Business School; and Xi Li, Assistant Professor of Accounting at Temple University. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Socially Responsible Firms by Allen Ferrell, Hao Liang, and Luc Renneboog (discussed on the Forum here).

In our paper, Active Ownership, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we analyze highly intensive engagements on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues by a large institutional investor with a major commitment to responsible investment (hereafter “ESG activism” or “active ownership”). Given the relative lack of research on environmentally and socially themed engagements, we emphasize the environmental and social (ES) engagements throughout the paper and use the corporate governance (CG) engagements as a basis for comparison.


The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation

Frances M. Tice is Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This post is based on an article authored by Ms. Tice.

In the paper, The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation on Investment Efficiency and Firm Performance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I examine the effect of explicit relative performance evaluation (RPE) on managers’ investment decisions and firm performance. Principal-agent theory suggests that firms can motivate managers to act in shareholders’ interest by linking their compensation to firm performance. However, firm performance is often affected by exogenous factors, and as a result, performance-based compensation may expose managers to common risk that they cannot directly control. In such cases, RPE enables the principal to compensate managers on their effort and events under their control by removing the effect of common shocks from measured performance, thus improving risk sharing and incentive alignment. However, RPE use as implemented in practice may not be effective in addressing agency costs because of potential peer group issues, such as availability of firms with common risk or a self-serving bias in peer selection. In addition, prior research also suggests that a large gap in ability between the RPE firm and peers (“superstar effect”) may actually reduce managers’ effort because the probability of winning is low. Therefore, the question of whether explicit RPE use in executive compensation does indeed reduce agency costs remains unanswered in the empirical literature.


Peer Effects of Corporate Social Responsibility

Hao Liang is Assistant Professor of Finance at Singapore Management University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Liang, and Jie Cao and Xintong Zhan, both of the Department of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has increasingly become a mainstream business activity—ranging from voluntarily engaging in environmental protection to increasing workforce diversity and employee welfare—although standard economic theories predict that it should be rather uncommon (Benabou and Tirole, 2010; Kitzmueller and Shimshack, 2012). The neoclassical economic paradigm usually considers CSR as unnecessary and inconsistent with profit maximization (e.g., Friedman, 1970). This discrepancy between theory and real-world observations has attracted much scholarly attention in recent years. One popular view on why CSR prevails is that it creates a competitive advantage for the firm and thus contributes to firm value. Following this line, numerous studies have investigated the causes and consequences of CSR by focusing on its strategic value implications.


The Disappearance of Public Firms

Gustavo Grullon is Professor of Finance at Rice University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Grullon; Yelena Larkin, Assistant Professor of Finance at Penn State University; and Roni Michaely, Professor of Finance at Cornell University.

In our paper, The Disappearance of Public Firms and the Changing Nature of U.S. Industries, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we show that contrary to popular beliefs, U.S. industries have become more concentrated since the beginning of the 21st century due to a systematic decline in the number of publicly-traded firms. This decline has been so dramatic that the number of firms these days is lower than it was in the early 1970s, when the real gross domestic product in the U.S. was one third of what it is today.

We show that the decline in the number of public firms has not been compensated by other mechanisms that could reduce market concentration. First, private firms did not replace public firms, as the aggregate number of both public and private firms declined in over half of the industries, and the concentration ratio based on revenues of public and private firms has increased. Second, we examine whether the intensified foreign competition could provide an alternative source of rivalry to domestic firms, and find that the share of imports out of the total revenues by U.S. public firms has remained flat since 2000. Third, we show that the decrease in the number of public firms has been a general pattern that has affected over 90% of U.S. industries, and is not driven by distressed industries, or business niches that have disappeared due to technological innovations or changes in consumer preferences. Instead, it has been driven by a combination of a lower number of IPOs as well as high M&A activity.


CEO and Executive Compensation Practices: 2015 Edition

Matteo Tonello is Managing Director at The Conference Board, Inc. This post relates to CEO and Executive Compensation Practices: 2015 Edition, an annual benchmarking report authored by Dr. Tonello with James Reda of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. For details regarding how to obtain a copy of the report, contact matteo.tonello@conference-board.org.

The Conference Board, in collaboration with Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., recently released the Key Findings from CEO and Executive Compensation Practices: 2015 Edition, which documents trends and developments on senior management compensation at companies issuing equity securities registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and, as of May 2015, included in the Russell 3000 Index.

The report has been designed to reflect the changing landscape of executive compensation and its disclosure. In addition to benchmarks on individual elements of compensation packages and the evolving features of short-term and long-term incentive plans (STIs and LTIs), the report provides details on shareholder advisory votes on executive compensation (say-on-pay) and outlines the major practices on board oversight of compensation design.


Corporate Governance Preferences of Institutional Investors

Joseph Mc Cahery is Professor in the Department of Business Law at Tilburg University. This post is based on an article authored by Prof. McCahery; Zacharias Sautner of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management; and Laura T. Starks of McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin.

We currently have little direct knowledge regarding how institutional investors engage with portfolio companies. The reason is that many interactions occur behind the scenes. That is, unless institutional investors publicly express their approval or disapproval of a firm’s activities or management, little is known about their preferences and private engagements with portfolio firms. In our paper, Behind the Scenes: The Corporate Governance Preferences of Institutional Investors, forthcoming in the Journal of Finance, we try to rectify this knowledge gap by conducting a survey among 143 institutional investors.

Institutional investors have two active choices when they become unhappy with a portfolio firm: (i) they can engage with management to try to institute change (“voice” or direct intervention); or (ii) they can leave the firm by selling shares (“exit” or “voting with their feet”). Theoretical models have documented the governance benefits of corrective actions through voice. These theories have recently been complemented by models showing that the threat of exit can also discipline management (e.g., Admati and Pfleiderer (2009), Edmans (2009), and Edmans and Manso (2011)). This raises the question of whether institutional investors, in response to dissatisfaction with portfolio firms, take actions that support the validity of these theories.


Corporate Use of Social Media

James Naughton is Assistant Professor of Accounting at Northwestern University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Naughton; Michael Jung, Assistant Professor of Accounting at New York University; Ahmed Tahoun, Assistant Professor of Accounting at London Business School; and Clare Wang, Assistant Professor of Accounting at Northwestern University.

Social media has transformed communications in many sectors of the U.S. economy. It is now used for disaster preparation and emergency response, security at major events, and public agencies are researching new uses in geolocation, law enforcement, court decisions, and military intelligence. Internationally, social media is credited for organizing political protests across the Middle East and a revolution in Egypt. In the business world, social media is considered a revolutionary sales and marketing platform and a powerful recruiting and networking channel. Little research exists, however, on how firms use social media to communicate financial information to investors and how investors respond to investor disseminated through social media, despite firms devoting considerable effort to creating and managing social media presences directed at investors. Motivated by this lack of research, in our paper, Corporate Use of Social Media, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we provide early large-sample evidence on the corporate use of social media for investor communications. More specifically, we investigate why firms choose to disseminate investor communications through social media, whether investors and traditional media outlets respond to social media disclosures, and whether potential adverse consequences to the firm exist from the use of social media to disseminate investor communications.


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