The Journal of Finance

The Journal of Finance publishes leading research across all the major fields of finance. It is one of the most widely cited journals in academic finance, and in all of economics. Each of the six issues per year reaches over 8,000 academics, finance professionals, libraries, and government and financial institutions around the world. The journal is the official publication of The American Finance Association, the premier academic organization devoted to the study and promotion of knowledge about financial economics.

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Leverage Choice and Credit Spreads when Managers Risk Shift

Published: 11/09/2010   |   DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2010.01617.x


We model the debt and asset risk choice of a manager with performance‐insensitive pay (cash) and performance‐sensitive pay (stock) to theoretically link compensation structure, leverage, and credit spreads. The model predicts that optimal leverage trades off the tax benefit of debt against the utility cost of ex‐post asset substitution and that credit spreads are increasing in the ratio of cash‐to‐stock. Using a large cross‐section of U.S.‐based corporate credit default swaps (CDS) covering 2001 to 2006, we find a positive association between cash‐to‐stock and CDS rates, and between cash‐to‐stock and leverage ratios.