Corporate values

Kevin Lewis

September 04, 2019

Managerial Short-Termism and Investment: Evidence from Accelerated Option Vesting
Tomislav Ladika & Zacharias Sautner
Review of Finance, forthcoming

We show that executives cut investment when their incentives become more short-term. We examine a unique event in which hundreds of firms eliminated option vesting periods to avoid a drop in income under accounting rule FAS 123-R. This event allowed executives to exercise options earlier and thus profit from boosting short-term performance. Our identification exploits that FAS 123-R's adoption was staggered almost randomly by firms' fiscal year-ends. CEOs cut investment and reported higher short-term earnings after option acceleration, and they subsequently increased equity sales.

Short-horizon incentives and stock price inflation
Jianxin Daniel Chi, Manu Gupta & Shane Johnson
Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

Do managerial incentive horizons have capital market consequences? We find that they do when short-sale constraints are more binding. Firms experience significant stock price inflation when their CEOs have short horizon incentives. The short-horizon CEOs sell more shares at inflated prices and generate greater abnormal trading profits. The stock price inflation is partly explained by greater earnings surprises and more positive investor reaction to the surprises. To inflate stock prices, short-horizon firms are more likely to employ income-increasing discretionary accruals. Consistent with theoretical predictions, all these effects are attenuated or statistically insignificant when short-sale constraints are less binding.

Female directors and managerial opportunism: Monitoring versus advisory female directors
Alaa Mansour Zalata et al.
Leadership Quarterly, forthcoming

Going beyond the mere participation of female directors within boardrooms, we investigate which of the two major boards of directors' roles (advisory versus monitoring) is best played by female directors in order to make a difference to shareholders. More specifically, we investigate the impact that advisory and monitoring female directors have on managerial opportunism with a specific focus on earnings management. Using sample of US firms, we find evidence suggesting that female directors holding monitoring roles mitigate managerial opportunism, as measured by discretionary accruals. In contrast to the current argument that advisory directors in general are better able to sustain and improve earnings quality, we find no evidence that suggests that advisory female directors are significantly associated with lower managerial opportunism. Overall, the results remain robust after controlling for potential endogeneity problems, corporate governance, and external auditor quality.

The case for humble expectations: CEO humility and market performance
Oleg Petrenko et al.
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

In this study we investigate the effect of CEO humility on firm's market performance. We argue and find that firms with more humble CEOs will have better market performance but not because they actually perform better but, rather, because they benefit from an expectation discount in the market. Specifically, we show that, all else equal, financial analysts announce lower earnings per share expectations for firms with more humble CEOs. This expectation discount sets the stage for those firms to meet or beat analysts' expectations resulting in improved market performance for firms with humble CEOs. We find support for our ideas with a sample of Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 CEOs, operationalizing CEO humility with a videometric technique.

Political connections and debt restructurings
Joseph Halford & Chengcheng Li
Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

This paper presents evidence that distressed firms with politically connected executives and board members are more likely to reorganize outside of court than to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This relation is more evident for firms that have more political importance, such as major employers within a state, firms located in swing states, and in periods leading up to major election dates. The evidence suggests that the expected costs of financial distress are lower for politically connected firms which may partially explain the higher leverage ratios of politically connected firms documented in the extant literature.

The risk of being ranked: Investor response to marginal inclusion on the 100 best corporate citizens list
Ben Lewis & Chad Carlos
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

Despite the proliferation of lists and rankings that recognize firms for superior performance, empirical studies have been limited in their ability to causally evaluate how inclusion for the marginal firm influences shareholder value. We address this limitation by examining how investors responded to firms that were barely included or excluded from the 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. Contrary to prevailing theoretical expectations, our findings indicate that marginal firms that were included in the ranking experienced negative abnormal returns compared to marginal firms that were excluded. We discuss the theoretical implications of these findings and how they inspire future research questions for scholarship on rankings and status. We also discuss implications for managers that question whether and when being ranked results in financial benefits or liabilities.

Seeing is believing? Executives' facial trustworthiness, auditor tenure, and audit fees
Tien-Shih Hsieh et al.
Journal of Accounting and Economics, forthcoming

Psychology and neuroscience studies document that facial trustworthiness perceptions may affect observers' decision-making process. Our study examines whether auditors' perceptions of client executives' facial trustworthiness are associated with their audit fee decisions. We employ a machine-learning-based face-detection algorithm to measure executives' facial trustworthiness. We find that auditors charge 5.6% less audit fee to firms with trustworthy-looking CFOs than to those with untrustworthy-looking CFOs in initial audit engagements. Auditor tenure weakens the negative association between CFOs' facial trustworthiness and audit fee. Further evidence shows that CFO's facial trustworthiness is associated with neither financial reporting quality nor litigation risk.

Choosing Between Growth and Glory
Sharon Belenzon, Aaron Chatterji & Brendan Daley
Management Science, forthcoming

Prior work has established that the financing environment can impact firm strategy. We argue that this influence can shape the earliest strategic choices of a new venture by creating a potential trade-off between two objectives: rapid growth and reaping the benefits of a positive reputation (glory). We leverage a simple reputation-building strategic choice - naming the firm after the founder (eponymy) - that is associated with superior profitability. Next, we argue via a formal model that the availability of/dependence on external financing can explain why high-growth firms are rarely eponymous. We find empirical support for the model's predictions using a large data set of 1 million European firms. Eponymous firms grow considerably more slowly than similarly profitable firms. Moreover, eponymy varies in accordance with the firm's financing environment in a pattern consistent with our model. We discuss implications for the literature on new-venture strategy.

Deadlock on the Board
Jason Roderick Donaldson, Nadya Malenko & Giorgia Piacentino
NBER Working Paper, August 2019

We develop a dynamic model of board decision-making. We show that a board could retain a policy all directors agree is worse than an available alternative. Thus, directors may retain a CEO they agree is bad - a deadlocked board leads to an entrenched CEO. We explore how to compose boards and appoint directors to mitigate deadlock. We find that board diversity and long director tenure can exacerbate deadlock. Moreover, we rationalize why CEOs and incumbent directors have power to appoint new directors: to avoid deadlock. Our model speaks to short-termism, staggered boards, and proxy access.

Analysts' and Managers' Use of Humor on Public Earnings Conference Calls
Andrew Call et al.
Texas A&M University Working Paper, July 2019

We examine analysts' and managers' use of humor during public earnings conference calls. Using a sample of 85,793 conference calls from 2003-2016, we find that experienced analysts and analysts with positive views of the company are more likely than other analysts to use humor on conference calls. We also find that analysts tend to use humor when the tone of their question is unusually negative, and that analysts who use humor on conference calls are allowed to speak for a longer period of time and receive longer responses from managers. When managers use humor, abnormal returns surrounding the call are higher, and analysts' stock recommendation revisions following the call are more positive. Our study provides new evidence on the use of humor in corporate disclosure events, and our findings indicate that humor has economically meaningful implications for public earnings conference calls.

Whistle Blowing, Forced CEO Turnover, and Misconduct: The Role of Socially Minded Employees and Directors
Frederick Bereskin, Terry Campbell & Simi Kedia
Management Science, forthcoming

We examine the response of prosocial employees and boards of directors to corporate misconduct. We develop several proxies for the presence of prosocial employees and directors based on the density of social networks and social capital in the county of the firms' headquarters and companies' relevant corporate social responsibility ratings. We document that proxies for prosocial employees and directors are associated with an increase in whistle blowing and forced chief executive officer turnover in a sample of firms that engage in misconduct. The higher expected cost of misconduct in firms with prosocial employees is associated with a lower likelihood of misconduct. Our findings highlight the role of nonfinancial imperatives of employees and directors in mitigating misconduct.

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