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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Pricing Sin Stocks: Ethical Preference vs. Risk Aversion

Stefano Colonnello Giuliano Curatola Alessandro Gioffré

in: European Economic Review, 2019

Abstract

We develop an ethical preference-based model that reproduces the average return and volatility spread between sin and non-sin stocks. Our investors do not necessarily boycott sin companies. Rather, they are open to invest in any company while trading off dividends against ethicalness. When dividends and ethicalness are complementary goods and investors are sufficiently risk averse, the model predicts that the dividend share of sin companies exhibits a positive relation with the future return and volatility spreads. An empirical analysis supports the model’s predictions. Taken together, our results point to the importance of ethical preferences for investors’ portfolio choices and asset prices.

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What Drives Discretion in Bank Lending? Some Evidence and a Link to Private Information

Gene Ambrocio Iftekhar Hasan

in: Journal of Banking and Finance, 2019

Abstract

We assess the extent to which discretion, unexplained variations in the terms of a loan contract, has varied across time and lending institutions and show that part of this discretion is due to private information that lenders have on their borrowers. We find that discretion is lower for secured loans and loans granted by a larger group of lenders, and is larger when the lenders are larger and more profitable. Over time, discretion is also lower around recessions although the private information content is higher. The results suggest that bank discretionary and private information acquisition behavior may be important features of the credit cycle.

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Corporate Misconduct and the Cost of Private Debt: Evidence from China

Xian Gu Iftekhar Hasan Haitian Lu

in: Comparative Economic Studies, No. 3, 2019

Abstract

Using a comprehensive dataset of corporate lawsuits in China, we investigate the implications of corporate misconduct on the cost of private debt. Evidence reveals that firms involved in litigations obtain subsequent loans with stricter pricing terms, 15.1 percent higher loan spreads, than non-litigated borrowers. Strong political connection and repeated relationship help to flatten the sensitivity of loan pricing to litigation. Nonbank financial institutions react in stronger manner to corporate misconduct than traditional banks in pricing loans. Overall, we show that private debt holders care about borrowers’ wrongdoing in the past.

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CEO Investment of Deferred Compensation Plans and Firm Performance

Domenico Rocco Cambrea Stefano Colonnello Giuliano Curatola Giulia Fantini

in: Journal of Business Finance and Accounting, No. 7, 2019

Abstract

We study how US chief executive officers (CEOs) invest their deferred compensation plans depending on the firm's profitability. By looking at the correlation between the CEO's return on these plans and the firm's stock return, we show that deferred compensation is to a large extent invested in the company equity in good times and divested from it in bad times. The divestment from company equity in bad times arguably reflects CEOs' incentive to abandon the firm and to invest in alternative instruments to preserve the value of their deferred compensation plans. This result suggests that the incentive alignment effects of deferred compensation crucially depend on the firm's health status.

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Benchmark on Themselves: CEO-directors’ Influence on the CEO Compensation

Bill Francis Iftekhar Hasan Yun Zhu

in: Managerial Finance, No. 7, 2019

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether or not the chief executive officers’ (CEO) compensation is affected by the compensation of the outside directors sitting on their board, who are also CEOs of other firms.

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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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