Short-term Debt and Incentives for Risk-Taking (with Marco Della Seta and Erwan Morellec)
Journal of Financial Economics, 137 (1): 179–203, 2020 (Paper, Supplementary Appendix)
We challenge the view that short-term debt curbs moral hazard and demonstrate that, in a world with financing frictions and fair debt pricing, short-term debt generates incentives for risk-taking. To do so, we develop a model in which firms are financed with equity and short-term debt and cannot freely optimize their default decision because of financing frictions. We show that the dynamic interaction of operating and rollover losses fuels default risk. In such instances, shareholders find it optimal to increase asset risk to improve interim debt repricing and prevent inefficient liquidation. These risk-taking incentives do not arise when debt maturity is sufficiently long.
Shareholder Bargaining Power and the Emergence of Empty Creditors (with Stefano Colonnello and Matthias Efing)
Journal of Financial Economics 134 (2): 297–317, 2019 (Paper, Internet Appendix)
Credit default swaps (CDSs) can create empty creditors who may push borrowers into inefficient bankruptcy but also reduce shareholders’ incentives to default strategically. We show theoretically and empirically that the presence and the effects of empty creditors on firm outcomes depend on the distribution of bargaining power among claimholders. Firms are more likely to have empty creditors if these would face powerful shareholders in debt renegotiation. The empirical evidence confirms that more CDS insurance is written on firms with strong shareholders and that CDSs increase the bankruptcy risk of these same firms. The ensuing effect on firm value is negative.
Liquidity, Innovation, and Endogenous Growth (with Semyon Malamud)
Journal of Financial Economics 132 (2): 519–541, 2019 (Paper, Internet Appendix)
We build a model of endogenous, innovation-driven growth in which innovative firms have costly access to outside financing and hoard cash reserves to maintain financial flexibility. We show that financing frictions slow down Schumpeterian creative destruction by discouraging entry. As a result, financing frictions importantly affect the composition of growth, by reducing the contribution of entrants but spurring the contribution of incumbents. We investigate the net impact of these countervailing effects on the equilibrium growth rate and welfare.
Innovation, Industry Equilibrium, and Discount rates
(with Maria Cecilia Bustamante)
We develop a model to examine how discount rates affect the nature and composition of innovation within an industry. Challenging conventional wisdom, we show that higher discount rates do not discourage firm innovation when accounting for the industry equilibrium. Higher discount rates deter fresh entry—effectively acting as entry barriers—but encourage innovation through the intensive margin, which can lead to a higher industry innovation rate on net. Simultaneously, high discount rates foster explorative over exploitative innovation. Considering fluctuations in discount rates, the model further rationalizes observed patterns in innovation cyclicality, and shows that innovation by rivals inflates incumbents’ risk premia.
Dynamic Carbon Emission Management
(with Maria Cecilia Bustamante)
The control of carbon emissions by policymakers poses the new corporate challenge of developing an optimal carbon management strategy. We provide a unified model that characterizes how firms should optimally manage emissions through production, green investments, and carbon trading, as well as the implications for asset prices. Under a carbon trading scheme, firms adopt precautionary policies such as under-producing compared to a laissez-faire benchmark. Perhaps surprisingly, firms with a large stock of credits are less committed to reducing emissions. More generally, carbon regulation does not necessarily reduce firm value and, furthermore, induces firms to tilt towards more immediate yet transient types of green investment as it becomes more costly to comply. We also show that polluting firms command a higher risk premium.
I develop a model that studies the interplay between investors’ trading frictions and firms’ financial constraints as well as the ensuing effects on corporate policies. The model shows that bid-ask spreads increase not only the cost of external financing but also the cost of internal funds, leading to smaller cash reserves and larger payouts. Thus, firm’s financial constraints tighten, liquidation risk increases, investment decreases, and firm value declines. These outcomes are reinforced when internalized by liquidity providers, giving rise to a feedback that makes the bid-ask spread wider and amplifies its detrimental effects on firm financial constraints and value.
Dynamic Equity Slope
(with Matthijs Breugem, Stefano Colonnello, and Roberto Marfè)
We develop a general equilibrium model that jointly explains important features of the term structure of equity: (i) a negative unconditional term premium, (ii) countercyclical term premia, (iii) procyclical equity yields, (iv) premia to value and growth claims respectively increasing and decreasing with the horizon. The economic mechanism hinges on the interaction between heteroskedastic long-run growth—which steers countercyclical risk premia—and homoskedastic short-term shocks—which generate sizable short-term risk premia. The slope dynamics hold irrespective of the sign of its unconditional average. We provide empirical support to our model assumptions and predictions.
Corporate Policies and the Term Structure of Risk
(with Matthijs Breugem and Roberto Marfè)
Asset pricing research indicates that the long and short term do not contribute equally to the market risk premium and that their relative contribution is time-varying. While having notable implications for firm discount rates, corporate finance models typically abstract from these aspects. In a dynamic model with financing frictions, we show that firms should extend (shorten) their horizon if short-term shocks have a greater (smaller) market price than long-term ones, i.e., if the term structure of risk prices is downward-sloping. Ignoring a downward-sloping term structure leads to underinvestment, excessive payouts, inadequate cash reserves and equity issuances, and excessive liquidations.
The Monetization of Innovation
(with Missaka Warusawitharana)
We develop a dynamic model for digital service firms, which need to invest in monetization to generate revenues from services provided to customers for free. Our model captures and explains why such firms often build a large customer base and become highly valued while continuing to suffer losses—traditional models would struggle to explain this pattern. Counterfactual analysis reveals that monetization uncertainty slows technological advancement by diverting resources away from innovation. We also show that regulation aimed at protecting user privacy has sizable adverse effect on firm size and the quality of the offered service but, perhaps surprisingly, reduces firm unprofitability. In turn, regulation targeting competition supports firms’ inventiveness.
Competition, Cash Holdings, and Financing Decisions
(with Erwan Morellec and Boris Nikolov)
We use a dynamic model of cash management in which firms face competitive pressure to show that competition increases corporate cash holdings as well as the frequency and size of equity issues. In our model, these effects are driven by small, financially constrained firms, in contrast with the theories based on strategic interactions in which large leaders or incumbents value more cash. We test these predictions on Compustat firms and show that product market competition has first order effects on the cash holdings and financing decisions of constrained firms, in ways consistent with our theory.
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