Investment and Internal Finance: Asymmetric Information or Managerial Discretion?
This paper examines the investment-cash flow sensitivity of publicly listed firms in The Netherlands. Investment-cash flow sensitivities can be attributed to overinvestment resulting from the abuse of managerial discretion, but also to underinvestment due to information problems. The Dutch corporate governance structure presents a number of distinctive features, in particular the limited influence of shareholders, the presence of large blockholders, and the importance of bank ties. We expect that in The Netherlands, the managerial discretion problem is more important than the asymmetric information problem. We use Tobin's Q to discriminate between firms with these problems, where LOW Q firms face the managerial discretion problem and HIGH Q firms the asymmetric information problem. As hypothesized, we find substantially larger investment-cash flow sensitivity for LOW Q firms. Moreover, specifically in the LOW Q sample, we find that firms with higher (bank) debt have lower investment-cash flow sensitivity. This finding shows that leverage, and particularly bank debt, is a key disciplinary mechanism which reduces the managerial discretion problem.