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Volume 64: Issue 5 (October 2009)

Why Do U.S. Firms Hold So Much More Cash than They Used To?

Pages: 1985-2021  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01492.x  |  Cited by: 1591


The average cash‐to‐assets ratio for U.S. industrial firms more than doubles from 1980 to 2006. A measure of the economic importance of this increase is that at the end of the sample period, the average firm can retire all debt obligations with its cash holdings. Cash ratios increase because firms' cash flows become riskier. In addition, firms change: They hold fewer inventories and receivables and are increasingly R&D intensive. While the precautionary motive for cash holdings plays an important role in explaining the increase in cash ratios, we find no consistent evidence that agency conflicts contribute to the increase.

Media Coverage and the Cross‐section of Stock Returns

Pages: 2023-2052  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01493.x  |  Cited by: 1152


By reaching a broad population of investors, mass media can alleviate informational frictions and affect security pricing even if it does not supply genuine news. We investigate this hypothesis by studying the cross‐sectional relation between media coverage and expected stock returns. We find that stocks with no media coverage earn higher returns than stocks with high media coverage even after controlling for well‐known risk factors. These results are more pronounced among small stocks and stocks with high individual ownership, low analyst following, and high idiosyncratic volatility. Our findings suggest that the breadth of information dissemination affects stock returns.

Credit Contagion from Counterparty Risk

Pages: 2053-2087  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01494.x  |  Cited by: 314


Standard credit risk models cannot explain the observed clustering of default, sometimes described as “credit contagion.” This paper provides the first empirical analysis of credit contagion via direct counterparty effects. We find that bankruptcy announcements cause negative abnormal equity returns and increases in CDS spreads for creditors. In addition, creditors with large exposures are more likely to suffer from financial distress later. This suggests that counterparty risk is a potential additional channel of credit contagion. Indeed, the fear of counterparty defaults among financial institutions explains the sudden worsening of the credit crisis after the Lehman bankruptcy in September 2008.

Frailty Correlated Default

Pages: 2089-2123  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01495.x  |  Cited by: 364


The probability of extreme default losses on portfolios of U.S. corporate debt is much greater than would be estimated under the standard assumption that default correlation arises only from exposure to observable risk factors. At the high confidence levels at which bank loan portfolio and collateralized debt obligation (CDO) default losses are typically measured for economic capital and rating purposes, conventionally based loss estimates are downward biased by a full order of magnitude on test portfolios. Our estimates are based on U.S. public nonfinancial firms between 1979 and 2004. We find strong evidence for the presence of common latent factors, even when controlling for observable factors that provide the most accurate available model of firm‐by‐firm default probabilities.

Attracting Flows by Attracting Big Clients

Pages: 2125-2151  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01496.x  |  Cited by: 92


We explore a new channel for attracting inflows using a unique data set of corporate 401(k) retirement plans and their mutual fund family trustees. Families secure substantial inflows by being named trustee. We find that family trustees significantly overweight, and are reluctant to sell, their 401(k) client firm's stock. Trustee overweighting is more pronounced when the relationship is more valuable to the trustee family, and is concentrated in those funds receiving the greatest benefit from the inflows. We quantify this flow benefit and find that inclusion in the 401(k) plan has an economically and statistically large, positive effect on inflows.

The Relation between Price and Performance in the Mutual Fund Industry

Pages: 2153-2183  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01497.x  |  Cited by: 308


Gruber (1996) drew attention to the puzzle that investors buy actively managed equity mutual funds, even though on average such funds underperform index funds. We uncover another puzzling fact about the market for equity mutual funds: Funds with worse before‐fee performance charge higher fees. This negative relation between fees and performance is robust and can be explained as the outcome of strategic fee‐setting by mutual funds in the presence of investors with different degrees of sensitivity to performance. We also find some evidence that better fund governance may bring fees more in line with performance.

Business Networks, Corporate Governance, and Contracting in the Mutual Fund Industry

Pages: 2185-2220  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01498.x  |  Cited by: 163


Business connections can mitigate agency conflicts by facilitating efficient information transfers, but can also be channels for inefficient favoritism. I analyze these two effects in the mutual fund industry and find that fund directors and advisory firms that manage the funds hire each other preferentially based on the intensity of their past interactions. I do not find evidence that stronger board‐advisor ties correspond to better or worse outcomes for fund shareholders. These results suggest that the two effects of board‐management connections on investor welfare—improved monitoring and increased potential for collusion—balance out in this setting.

Role of Managerial Incentives and Discretion in Hedge Fund Performance

Pages: 2221-2256  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01499.x  |  Cited by: 392


Using a comprehensive hedge fund database, we examine the role of managerial incentives and discretion in hedge fund performance. Hedge funds with greater managerial incentives, proxied by the delta of the option‐like incentive fee contracts, higher levels of managerial ownership, and the inclusion of high‐water mark provisions in the incentive contracts, are associated with superior performance. The incentive fee percentage rate by itself does not explain performance. We also find that funds with a higher degree of managerial discretion, proxied by longer lockup, notice, and redemption periods, deliver superior performance. These results are robust to using alternative performance measures and controlling for different data‐related biases.

Do Hedge Fund Managers Misreport Returns? Evidence from the Pooled Distribution

Pages: 2257-2288  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01500.x  |  Cited by: 216


We find a significant discontinuity in the pooled distribution of monthly hedge fund returns: The number of small gains far exceeds the number of small losses. The discontinuity is present in live and defunct funds, and funds of all ages, suggesting that it is not caused by database biases. The discontinuity is absent in the 3 months culminating in an audit, suggesting it is not attributable to skillful loss avoidance. The discontinuity disappears when using bimonthly returns, indicating a reversal in fund performance following small gains. This result suggests that the discontinuity is caused at least in part by temporarily overstated returns.

Driven to Distraction: Extraneous Events and Underreaction to Earnings News

Pages: 2289-2325  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01501.x  |  Cited by: 970


Recent studies propose that limited investor attention causes market underreactions. This paper directly tests this explanation by measuring the information load faced by investors. The investor distraction hypothesis holds that extraneous news inhibits market reactions to relevant news. We find that the immediate price and volume reaction to a firm's earnings surprise is much weaker, and post‐announcement drift much stronger, when a greater number of same‐day earnings announcements are made by other firms. We evaluate the economic importance of distraction effects through a trading strategy, which yields substantial alphas. Industry‐unrelated news and large earnings surprises have a stronger distracting effect.

Getting Out Early: An Analysis of Market Making Activity at the Recommending Analyst's Firm

Pages: 2327-2359  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01502.x  |  Cited by: 82


This paper examines trading volume for Nasdaq market makers around analyst recommendation changes issued by an analyst at the same firm. Using Nasdaq PostData, we find a disproportionate increase in market making volume associated with the firm's recommendation changes and evidence of elevated sell volume at the recommending analyst's firm in the 2 days preceding a downgrade. The implications are that the information source matters in determining the placement of trades and that the issuing analyst's firm appears to be rewarded for prereleasing information through increased volume. These findings constitute new evidence of compensation for research production through the market making channel.

Making Sense of Cents: An Examination of Firms That Marginally Miss or Beat Analyst Forecasts

Pages: 2361-2388  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01503.x  |  Cited by: 412


This paper examines the performance consequences of cutting discretionary expenditures and managing accruals to exceed analyst forecasts. We show that firms that just beat analyst forecasts with low quality earnings exhibit a short‐term stock price benefit relative to firms that miss forecasts with high quality earnings. This trend, however, reverses over a 3‐year horizon. Additionally, firms reducing discretionary expenditures to beat forecasts have significantly greater equity issuances and insider selling in the following year, consistent with managers understanding the myopic nature of their actions. Our results confirm survey evidence suggesting managers engage in myopic behavior to beat benchmarks.

Electing Directors

Pages: 2389-2421  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01504.x  |  Cited by: 377


Using a large sample of director elections, we document that shareholder votes are significantly related to firm performance, governance, director performance, and voting mechanisms. However, most variables, except meeting attendance and ISS recommendations, have little economic impact on shareholder votes—even poorly performing directors and firms typically receive over 90% of votes cast. Nevertheless, fewer votes lead to lower “abnormal” CEO compensation and a higher probability of removing poison pills, classified boards, and CEOs. Meanwhile, director votes have little impact on election outcomes, firm performance, or director reputation. These results provide important benchmarks for the current debate on election reforms.


Pages: 2423-2424  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01505.x  |  Cited by: 0

Back Matter

Pages: 2425-2428  |  Published: 9/2009  |  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2009.01506.x  |  Cited by: 0