Law and Finance

This research 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

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Professor Stefano Colonnello, PhD
Professor Stefano Colonnello, PhD
Mitglied - Department Financial Markets
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Refereed Publications

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Investor Relations and IPO Performance

Salim Chahine Gonul Colak Iftekhar Hasan Mohamad Mazboudi

in: Review of Accounting Studies, No. 2, 2020

Abstract

We analyze the value of investor relations (IR) strategies to IPO firms. We find that firms that are less visible and have inexperienced management tend to hire IR consultants prior to the issue date. IR consultants help create positive news coverage before an IPO, as reflected in a more optimistic tone of published media. Their presence is associated with higher underpricing at the IPO date but with lower long-run returns. IR-backed IPOs also exhibit disproportionately higher insider-related agency problems, as IR-induced higher underpricing tends to occur primarily in IPOs where underwriter and venture capitalist agency conflicts are more severe. These findings suggest that the IR programs of IPO firm are mostly short-term oriented and facilitate the ulterior motives of some insiders (underwriters and venture capitalists) targeting higher first-day returns.

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Executive Compensation and Labor Expenses

Stefano Colonnello

in: B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, No. 1, 2020

Abstract

Using data on US public firms, I uncover a strong and positive correlation between executive compensationand labor expenses. On average, a 1% increase in the wage bill translates into a 0.3% raise in total executivepay. This association is driven by wages rather than by employment growth, is stronger for the incentive thanfor the salary component of executive compensation, and is particularly pronounced in the financial sector.

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Entrenchment through Corporate Social Responsibility: Evidence from CEO Network Centrality

Salim Chahine Yiwei Fang Iftekhar Hasan Mohamad Mazboudi

in: International Review of Financial Analysis, 2019

Abstract

This paper investigates whether CEOs with high network centrality entrench themselves when taking CSR decisions and how that affects firm value. Evidence portrays that CSR in firms with more central CEOs is negatively associated with firm-value, and this association is mitigated by better corporate governance mechanisms and by geographic areas of higher social capital. This negative association is lower during disasters which reflect periods of positive exogenous shocks to the societal demand for CSR. Furthermore, CSR by more central CEOs is positively associated with future increases in CEO compensation and future improvement in a CEO's network position. The findings reveal that, in general, central CEOs use CSR to entrench themselves and gain private benefits rather than increase shareholder value.

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Shareholder Bargaining Power and the Emergence of Empty Creditors

Stefano Colonnello M. Efing Francesca Zucchi

in: Journal of Financial Economics, No. 2, 2019

Abstract

Credit default swaps (CDSs) can create empty creditors who potentially force 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. If creditors would face powerful shareholders in debt renegotiation, firms are more likely to face the empty creditor problem. 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.

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Employee Treatment and Contracting with Bank Lenders: An Instrumental Approach for Stakeholder Management

Bill Francis Iftekhar Hasan Liuling Liu Haizhi Wang

in: Journal of Business Ethics, 2019

Abstract

Adopting an instrumental approach for stakeholder management, we focus on two primary stakeholder groups (employees and creditors) to investigate the relationship between employee treatment and loan contracts with banks. We find strong evidence that fair employee treatment reduces loan price and limits the use of financial covenants. In addition, we document that relationship bank lenders price both the levels and changes in the quality of employee treatment, whereas first-time bank lenders only care about the levels of fair employee treatment. Taking a contingency perspective, we find that industry competition and firm asset intangibility moderate the relationship between good human resource management and bank loan costs. The cost reduction effect of fair employee treatment is stronger for firms operating in a more competitive industry and having higher levels of intangible assets.

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Working Papers

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Competition, Cost Structure, and Labour Leverage: Evidence from the U.S. Airline Industry

Konstantin Wagner

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 21, 2020

Abstract

I study the effect of increasing competition on financial performance through labour leverage. To capture competition, I exploit variation in product market contestability in the U.S. airline industry. First, I find that increasing competitive pressure leads to increasing labour leverage, proxied by labour share. This explains the decrease in operating profitability through labour rigidities. Second, by exploiting variation in human capital specificity, I show that contestability of product markets induces labour market contestability. Whereas affected firms might experience more stress through higher wages or loss of skilled human capital, more mobile employee groups benefit from competitions through higher labour shares.

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Marginal Returns to Talent for Material Risk Takers in Banking

Moritz Stieglitz Konstantin Wagner

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 20, 2020

Abstract

Economies of scale can explain compensation differentials over time, across firms of different size, different hierarchy-levels, and different industries. Consequently, the most talented individuals tend to match with the largest firms in industries where marginal returns to their talent are greatest. We explore a new dimension of this size-pay nexus by showing that marginal returns also differ across activities within firms and industries. Using hand-collected data on managers in European banks well below the level of executive directors, we find that the size-pay nexus is strongest for investment banking business units and for banks with a market-based business model. Thus, managerial compensation is most sensitive to size increases for activities that can easily be scaled up.

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Benign Neglect of Covenant Violations: Blissful Banking or Ignorant Monitoring?

Stefano Colonnello Michael Koetter Moritz Stieglitz

in: IWH Discussion Papers, forthcoming

Abstract

Theoretically, bank‘s loan monitoring activity hinges critically on its capitalisation. To proxy for monitoring intensity, we use changes in borrowers‘ investment following loan covenant violations, when creditors can intervene in the governance of the firm. Exploiting granular bank-firm relationships observed in the syndicated loan market, we document substantial heterogeneity in monitoring across banks and through time. Better capitalised banks are more lenient monitors that intervene less with covenant violators. Importantly, this hands-off approach is associated with improved borrowers‘ performance. Beyond enhancing financial resilience, regulation that requires banks to hold more capital may thus also mitigate the tightening of credit terms when firms experience shocks.

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Firm-level Employment, Labour Market Reforms, and Bank Distress

Moritz Stieglitz Ralph Setzer

in: ECB Working Paper Series, No. 2334, 2019

Abstract

We explore the interaction between labour market reforms and financial frictions. Our study combines a new cross-country reform database on labour market reforms with matched firm-bank data for nine euro area countries over the period 1999 to 2013. While we find that labour market reforms are overall effective in increasing employment, restricted access to bank credit can undo up to half of long-term employment gains at the firm-level. Entrepreneurs without sufficient access to credit cannot reap the full benefits of more flexible employment regulation.

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Firm-level Employment, Labour Market Reforms, and Bank Distress

Ralph Setzer Moritz Stieglitz

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 15, 2019

Abstract

We explore the interaction between labour market reforms and financial frictions. Our study combines a new cross-country reform database on labour market reforms with matched firm-bank data for nine euro area countries over the period 1999 to 2013. While we find that labour market reforms are overall effective in increasing employment, restricted access to bank credit can undo up to half of long-term employment gains at the firm-level. Entrepreneurs without sufficient access to credit cannot reap the full benefits of more flexible employment regulation.

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