25 Years IWH

Law and Finance

This research group belongs to the IWH Research Cluster Institutions and Social Norms. The group studies the role of corporate governance for firm value and policies, with a focus on firm-creditor relationships and legal institutions. We plan to investigate these issues along three lines of research. First, we look at how financial and legal innovations impact firm-creditor relationships. In a project, we examine how the possibility to hedge against credit risk on a firm’s debt through credit default swaps (CDS) may alter such relationships by reducing creditors’ incentives to monitor the firm. The second line of research explores theoretically and empirically how the dynamics of debtor-creditor conflicts shape managerial incentives, and how these in turn influence the firm's cost of debt. The third line of research relates to the role of the court system for firms. The outcome of a legal dispute has two main sources: The applicable laws and the courts that enforce them. We shed light on the role of courts in determining the impact of legal conflicts on firm value.

Research Cluster
Institutions and Social Norms

Your contact

Professor Stefano Colonnello, PhD
Professor Stefano Colonnello, PhD
Mitglied - Department Financial Markets
Send Message +49 345 7753-773 Personal page

Refereed Publications


In Search of Concepts: The Effects of Speculative Demand on Stock Returns

Owain ap Gwilym Iftekhar Hasan Qingwei Wang Ru Xie

in: European Financial Management , No. 3, 2016


Using a novel proxy of investors' speculative demand constructed from online search interest in investment concepts, we examine how speculative demand affects the returns of Chinese stocks. We find that speculative demand increases following high market returns and predicts subsequent return reversals. Moreover, the speculative demand explains more variation in subsequent returns of A shares (more populated by retail investors) than B shares (less populated by retail investors). Our findings support the recently developed attention theory.

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The Effect of Board Directors from Countries with Different Genetic Diversity Levels on Corporate Performance

Manthos D. Delis Chrysovalantis Gaganis Iftekhar Hasan Fotios Pasiouras

in: Management Science , No. 1, 2017


We link genetic diversity in the country of origin of the firms’ board members with corporate performance via board members’ nationality. We hypothesize that our approach captures deep-rooted differences in cultural, institutional, social, psychological, physiological, and other traits that cannot be captured by other recently measured indices of diversity. Using a panel of firms listed in the North American and UK stock markets, we find that adding board directors from countries with different levels of genetic diversity (either higher or lower) increases firm performance. This effect prevails when we control for a number of cultural, institutional, firm-level, and board member characteristics, as well as for the nationality of the board of directors. To identify the relationship, we use—as instrumental variables for our diversity indices—the migratory distance from East Africa and the level of ultraviolet exposure in the directors’ country of nationality.

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Abnormal Real Operations, Real Earnings Management, and Subsequent Crashes in Stock Prices

Bill Francis Iftekhar Hasan Lingxiang Li

in: Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting , No. 2, 2016


We study the impact of firms’ abnormal business operations on their future crash risk in stock prices. Computed based on real earnings management (REM) models, firms’ deviation in real operations (DROs) from industry norms is shown to be positively associated with their future crash risk. This association is incremental to that between discretionary accruals (DAs) and crash risk found by prior studies. Moreover, after Sarbanes–Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002, DRO’s predictive power for crash risk strengthens substantially, while DA’s predictive power essentially dissipates. These results are consistent with the prior finding that managers shift from accrual earnings management to REM after SOX. We further develop a suspect-firm approach to capture firms’ use of DRO for REM purposes. This analysis shows that REM-firms experience a significant increase in crash risk in the following year. These findings suggest that the impact of DRO on crash risk is at least partially through REM.

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CEO Political Preference and Corporate Tax Sheltering

Bill Francis Iftekhar Hasan Xian Sun Qiang Wu

in: Journal of Corporate Finance , 2016


We show that firms led by politically partisan CEOs are associated with a higher level of corporate tax sheltering than firms led by nonpartisan CEOs. Specifically, Republican CEOs are associated with more corporate tax sheltering even when their wealth is not tied with that of shareholders and when corporate governance is weak, suggesting that their tax sheltering decisions could be driven by idiosyncratic factors such as their political ideology. We also show that Democratic CEOs are associated with more corporate tax sheltering only when their stock-based incentives are high, suggesting that their tax sheltering decisions are more likely to be driven by economic incentives. In sum, our results support the political connection hypothesis in general but highlight that the specific factors driving partisan CEOs' tax sheltering behaviors differ. Our results imply that it may cost firms more to motivate Democratic CEOs to engage in more tax sheltering activities because such decisions go against their political beliefs regarding tax policies.

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Urban Agglomeration and CEO Compensation

Bill Francis Iftekhar Hasan Kose John Maya Waisman

in: Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis , No. 6, 2016


We examine the relation between the agglomeration of firms around big cities and chief executive officer (CEO) compensation. We find a positive relation among the metropolitan size of a firm’s headquarters, the total and equity portion of its CEO’s pay, and the quality of CEO educational attainment. We also find that CEOs gradually increase their human capital in major metropolitan areas and are rewarded for this upon relocation to smaller cities. Taken together, the results suggest that urban agglomeration reflects local network spillovers and faster learning of skilled individuals, for which firms are willing to pay a premium and which are therefore important factors in CEO compensation.

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Working Papers


Direct and Indirect Risk-taking Incentives of Inside Debt

Stefano Colonnello G. Curatola Ngoc Giang Hoang

in: IWH Discussion Papers , No. 20, 2016


We develop a model of managerial compensation structure and asset risk choice. The model provides predictions about the relation between credit spreads and different compensation components. First, we show that credit spreads are decreasing in inside debt only if it is unsecured. Second, the relation between credit spreads and equity incentives varies depending on the features of inside debt.

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Do Courts Matter for Firm Value? Evidence from the U.S. Court System

Stefano Colonnello C. Herpfer

in: IWH Discussion Papers , No. 1, 2016


We estimate the link between the court system and firm value by exploiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which changed firms‘ exposure to different courts. We find that exposure to courts which are highly ranked by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce increases firm value. The effect is driven by courts‘ attitude towards businesses more than by their efficiency and is more pronounced for firms in industries with high litigation risk. We also test whether firms benefit from the ability to steer lawsuits into friendly courts, so-called forum shopping. We provide evidence that a reduction in firms‘ ability to forum shop decreases firm value, whereas a reduction in plaintiffs‘ ability to forum shop increases firm value.

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Empty Creditors and Strong Shareholders: The Real Effects of Credit Risk Trading

Stefano Colonnello M. Efing F. Zucchi

in: IWH Discussion Papers , No. 10, 2016


Credit derivatives give creditors the possibility to transfer debt cash flow rights to other market participants while retaining control rights. We use the market for credit default swaps (CDSs) as a laboratory to show that the real effects of such debt unbundling crucially hinge on shareholder bargaining power. We find that creditors buy more CDS protection when facing strong shareholders to secure themselves a valuable outside option in distressed renegotiations. After the start of CDS trading, the distance-to-default, investment, and market value of firms with powerful shareholders drop by 7.9%, 7%, and 8.8% compared to other firms.

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Executive Compensation Structure and Credit Spreads

Stefano Colonnello G. Curatola Ngoc Giang Hoang

in: SAFE Working Paper, Heft 60 , No. 60, 2014


We develop a model of managerial compensation structure and asset risk choice. The model provides predictions about how inside debt features affect the relation between credit spreads and compensation components. First, inside debt reduces credit spreads only if it is unsecured. Second, inside debt exerts important indirect effects on the role of equity incentives: When inside debt is large and unsecured, equity incentives increase credit spreads; When inside debt is small or secured, this effect is weakened or reversed. We test our model on a sample of U.S. public firms with traded CDS contracts, finding evidence supportive of our predictions. To alleviate endogeneity concerns, we also show that our results are robust to using an instrumental variable approach.

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Executive Compensation, Macroeconomic Conditions, and Cash Flow Cyclicality

Stefano Colonnello

in: IWH Discussion Papers , No. 6, 2016


I model the joint effects of debt, macroeconomic conditions, and cash flow cyclicality on risk-shifting behavior and managerial pay-for-performance sensitivity. I show that risk-shifting incentives rise during recessions and that the shareholders can eliminate such adverse incentives by reducing the equity-based compensation in managerial contracts. I also show that this reduction should be larger in highly procyclical firms. Using a sample of U.S. public firms, I provide evidence supportive of the model’s predictions. First, I find that equity-based incentives are reduced during recessions. Second, I show that the magnitude of this effect is increasing in a firm’s cash flow cyclicality.

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