Theses Doctoral

On the Unintended Effects of Non-standard Corporate Governance Mechanisms

De Simone, Rebecca Ellen

This dissertation comprises three essays in the field of empirical corporate finance and it contributes to the literature on the financial and real effects of corporate governance. Broadly defined, corporate governance encompasses all mechanisms that remove frictions in the relationship between firm insiders and outside stakeholders with claims on the cash flows of the company. The field has focused on the relationships between concentrated equity-holders and managers, but there are many other firm claimants. I consider two that are understudied: (1) The government, which holds a claim on firm cash flows through its taxation power. This stake motivates the government to detect and punish manager expropriation. And (2) passive investors, which appear not to engage with the running of individual firms in their maximally diversified portfolios but which may have a portfolio-maximization incentive to do so.

In the first two chapters I hypothesize that credible government monitoring creates firm value by reducing frictions between firms and their bank lenders, allowing them to access more and cheaper financing to fund new investments. I quantify the effect in the context of a tax audit program in Ecuador wherein a sub-group of firms were chosen to be audited every year indefinitely. In the first chapter, I show that banks lend more to firms that are known to be under higher government scrutiny, both on the intensive and extensive margins, and do so at lower interest rates and longer maturities. I control for selection bias using a regression discontinuity design based on the procedure the tax authority used to choose which firms to add to the auditing program.

In the second chapter, I use the same Ecuadorian setting as in the first chapter to show that government monitoring affects the real economy: Firms subject to more government monitoring increase their employment and their investment in physical capital. This is true even though the firms increase their average tax payments. The estimated employment effects jointly estimate new employment and formalization of existing employees. Investment effects are concentrated in physical capital investments, rather than in intangibles.

But what mechanism is driving these results? I determine that the financial and real effects act primarily through government monitoring reducing ``hidden action'' frictions between firms and their lenders. The corporate governance effects of tax enforcement are valuable to firm investors, which update their beliefs on firms' abilities to divert firm resources going forward, making firm actions more predictable under the monitoring regime. The combination of a larger supply of bank credit at a lower price supports this mechanism. Moreover, monitored firms became more likely to borrow from a bank that they had never borrowed from before and to attract investments from new private investors. Finally, it is those firms that appear to be most likely to divert ex ante, by both tax and accounting measures of diversion, that receive the largest decrease in their cost of borrowing once they are chosen for the program.

I conclude that this government monitoring, even when it was designed to maximize tax collection, had a meaningful effect on firm access to capital and on the real economy. This evidence supports the hypothesis that predictable government enforcement of laws is an important part of a comprehensive corporate governance system, lowering frictions that are not mitigated through other means and complimenting other mechanisms, such as bank monitoring. The policy implication is that an increase in tax enforcement can benefit both the government and outside firm stakeholders by generating greater tax revenue and increasing the value of the firm to outsiders.

In the third chapter I test the hypothesis that shareholder governance, the primary mechanism for inducing managers to maximize own-firm value, may in some circumstances lower manager incentives to maximize the value of their firm when to do so they would need to engage in fierce competition with other firms that their shareholders also own. One way that cross-holding shareholders could incentivize managers to internalize their competition preferences is to influence the composition of executive compensation by increasing the payouts to managers when their industry does well relative to the payouts when their own firm does well. I find no robust relationship between the cross-holdings of minority shareholders and the competition incentives embedded in the compensation of top firm executives. Rather, I find that firms with shareholders that hold relatively more cross-holdings in direct competitor firms are more likely to adopt performance pay that expressly rewards out-performing peers. This chapter contributes to the current policy debate on how to regulate diversified investors by casting doubt on the anti-competitive effects of these holdings, at least through the mechanism of executive compensation, the main way that firms align shareholder and executive incentives.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Giroud, Xavier
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 24, 2020