Price Signal

Kevin Lewis

June 08, 2021

Inside brokers
Frank Weikai Li, Abhiroop Mukherjee & Rik Sen
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


We identify the broker each corporate insider trades through, and find that analysts and mutual fund managers affiliated with such “inside brokers” have a substantial information advantage on the insider’s firm. Affiliated analysts issue more accurate earnings forecasts, and affiliated mutual funds trade the insider’s stock more profitably than their peers, following insider trades through their brokerage. Notably, this advantage persists well after these insider trades are publicly disclosed. Our results challenge the prevalent perception that information asymmetry arising from insider trading is acute only before trade disclosure, and suggest that brokers facilitating these trades are in a position to exploit this asymmetry.

The Granular Nature of Large Institutional Investors
Itzhak Ben-David et al.
Management Science, forthcoming


Large institutional investors own an increasing share of the equity markets in the United States. The implications of this development for financial markets are still unclear. The paper presents novel empirical evidence that ownership by large institutions predicts higher volatility and greater noise in stock prices as well as greater fragility in times of crisis. When studying the channel, we find that large institutional investors exhibit traits of granularity (i.e., subunits within a firm display correlated behavior), which reduces diversification of idiosyncratic shocks. Thus, large institutions trade larger volumes and induce greater price impact.

The Impact of Cryptocurrency Regulation on Trading Markets
Brian Feinstein & Kevin Werbach
Journal of Financial Regulation, March 2021, Pages 48–99


The meteoric growth of global cryptocurrency markets presents novel challenges to regulators. Some policymakers and scholars warn that regulation will cause trading activity to cross borders into less-regulated jurisdictions -- or even smother a promising new financial asset class. Others believe regulatory actions will stimulate activity by providing clarity to market participants. Standing behind this disagreement is a debate about the desirability of either outcome. Some believe that governments should promote development of the cryptocurrency sector within their countries, while others view cryptocurrencies as conduits of illegality and fraud that should be restricted through strict regulation or even outright bans. Yet these debates have, to date, been conducted almost entirely without data concerning the effects of regulation on market activity. As a corrective, in this article we assembled original data on cryptocurrency regulations worldwide and used them to empirically examine movement in trading activity at a number of exchanges following key regulatory announcements. We found that a wide variety of models yielded almost entirely null results. From the creation of bespoke licensing regimes to targeted anti-money-laundering and anti-fraud enforcement actions, as well as many other categories of government activities, we found no systemic evidence that regulatory measures cause traders to flee, or enter into, the affected jurisdictions. These findings at last provide an empirical basis for regulatory decisions concerning cryptocurrency trading. Among other things, they call into question that capital flight or chilling effects should be a first-order concern.

Engineering lemons
Petra Vokata
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


Recent complex financial products sold to households contradict the basic premise of canonical innovation theories: Financial innovation benefits its adopters. In my 2006–2015 sample of over 28,000 yield enhancement products (YEP), the securities offer attractive yields but negative returns. The products lose money both ex ante and ex post due to their embedded fees. On average, YEPs charge 6–7% in annual fees and subsequently lose 6–7% relative to risk-adjusted benchmarks. Simple and cheap combinations of listed options often statewise dominate YEPs. Competition, disclosure, or learning do not eliminate this inferior financial innovation over my sample period.

Keeping Up with the Joneses and the Real Effects of S&P 500 Inclusion
Benjamin Bennett, René Stulz & Zexi Wang
Ohio State University Working Paper, May 2021


Firms added to the S&P 500 index join a prestigious and exclusive club. They want to fit in the club, which creates a “keeping up with the Joneses” effect. Firms pay more attention to their index peers after inclusion and their investment, external financing, and payouts comove more with their index peers. These effects do not appear to result from the increased coordination among investors posited by the common ownership literature as inclusion does not cause a decrease in competition. Since index inclusion does not increase shareholder wealth permanently, these peer effects do not appear to benefit shareholders.

When Shareholders Disagree: Trading after Shareholder Meetings
Sophia Zhengzi Li, Ernst Maug & Miriam Schwartz-Ziv
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming


This paper analyzes how trading after shareholder meetings changes the composition of the shareholder base. Analyzing daily trades, we find that mutual funds reduce their holdings if their votes are opposed to the voting outcome. Trading volume is high even when stock prices do not change, peaks on the meeting date, and remains high up to four weeks after shareholder meetings. The results support models based on differences of opinion that predict that shareholders’ beliefs may diverge more after observing voting outcomes. Hence, trading after meetings creates a more homogeneous shareholder base, which has important implications for corporate governance.

Unlocking clients: The importance of relationships in the financial advisory industry
Umit Gurun, Noah Stoffman & Scott Yonker
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


We investigate the importance of client relationships in the financial advisory industry. We exploit firm-level variation in adoption of the Broker Protocol, which enabled clients to follow their advisers to member firms without fear of litigation. We show that advisers’ ability to maintain client relationships is a significant predictor of their employment decisions; that about 40% of client assets follow advisers when they move; and that once clients are “unlocked,” firms become less willing to fire advisers for misconduct. Firms that unlock their clients subsequently experience higher levels of misconduct and increase their fees, calling into question whether clients are better off.

Dark Trading and Post-Earnings-Announcement Drift
Jacob Thomas, Frank Zhang & Wei Zhu
Management Science, forthcoming


Both theory and evidence are mixed regarding the impact on prices of trading on “dark” venues partially exempt from National Market System requirements. Theory predicts that price discovery improves as dark venues siphon noisy uninformed trades, but increased adverse selection reduces liquidity. Empirical studies, which focus on intraday inefficiency, also find contradictory results. We extend that literature to investigate the impact of dark trading on a long-standing inefficiency based on under-reaction to quarterly earnings. We study a randomized controlled trial created by the “trade-at” rule of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Tick Size Pilot Program that exogenously shocks dark trading. We supplement that with ordinary least squares and two-stage least squares regressions on a more representative Compustat/Center for Research in Security Prices sample. All our results suggest that under-reaction increases with dark trading, consistent with reduced liquidity limiting arbitrage. We contribute to the literature on dark trading and inefficient processing of accounting disclosures, highlighting the role of advances in trading technology.

Quantifying the cost of decision fatigue: Suboptimal risk decisions in finance
Tobias Baer & Simone Schnall
Royal Society Open Science, May 2021


Making decisions over extended periods of time is cognitively taxing and can lead to decision fatigue, which is linked to a preference for the ‘default’ option, namely whatever decision involves relatively little cognitive effort. Such effects have been demonstrated across a number of applied settings, including forensic and clinical contexts. Previous research, however, has not quantified the cost of such suboptimal decisions. We assessed the magnitude of the negative consequences of decision fatigue in the finance sector. Using 26 501 credit loan applications evaluated by credit officers of a major bank, we show that in this real-life financial risk-taking context credit loan approvals across the course of a day decreased during midday compared with early or later in the workday, reflecting a preference for the default option. To quantify the economic loss associated with such decision variability, we then modelled the bank's additional credit collection if all decisions had been made during early morning levels of approval. This would have resulted in $509 023 extra revenue for the bank, for one month. Thus, we provide further evidence that is consistent with a pattern of decision fatigue, and that it can have a substantial negative impact in the finance sector that warrants considerations to counteract it.


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