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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Managerial Effect or Firm Effect: Evidence from the Private Debt Market

Bill Francis Iftekhar Hasan Yun Zhu

in: The Financial Review, No. 1, 2020

Abstract

This paper provides evidence that the managerial effect is a key determinant of firms’ cost of capital, in the context of private debt contracting. Applying the novel empirical method developed by an earlier study to a large sample that tracks the job movement of top managers, we find that the managerial effect is a critical and significant factor that explains a large part of the variation in loan contract terms more accurately than firm fixed effects. Additional evidence shows that banks “follow” managers when they change jobs and offer loan contracts with preferential terms to their new firms.

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Foreign Bank Ownership and Income Inequality: Empirical Evidence

Manthos D. Delis Iftekhar Hasan Nikolaos Mylonidis

in: Applied Economics, No. 11, 2020

Abstract

Using country-level panel data over 1995–2013 on within-country income inequality and foreign bank presence, this paper establishes a positive relation between the two, running from higher foreign bank presence to income inequality. Given that foreign bank participation increased by 62% over the period 1995 to 2013, our baseline results imply a 5.8% increase in the Gini coefficient on average over this period, ceteris paribus. These results are robust to the inclusion of country and year fixed effects and to the use of restrictions on foreign bank entry in the host countries as an instrumental variable. We show that this positive effect is channelled through the lack of greenfield entry and the associated lower levels of competition.

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Shareholder Bargaining Power and the Emergence of Empty Creditors

Stefano Colonnello M. Efing F. 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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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 & 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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Working Papers

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

Stefano Colonnello Michael Koetter Moritz Stieglitz

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 3, 2019

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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Effectiveness and (In)Efficiencies of Compensation Regulation: Evidence from the EU Banker Bonus Cap

Stefano Colonnello Michael Koetter Konstantin Wagner

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 7, 2018

Abstract

We study if the regulation of bank executive compensation has unintended consequences. Based on novel data on CEO and non-CEO executives in EU banking, we show that capping the variable-to-fixed compensation ratio did not induce executives to abandon the industry. Banks indemnified executives sufficiently for the shock to retain them by raising fixed and lowering variable compensation while complying with the cap. At the same time, banks‘ risk-adjusted performance deteriorated due to increased idiosyncratic risk. Collateral damage for the financial system as a whole appears modest though, as average co-movement of banks with the market declined under the cap.

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Internal Governance and Creditor Governance: Evidence from Credit Default Swaps

Stefano Colonnello

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 6, 2017

Abstract

I study the relation between internal governance and creditor governance. A deterioration in creditor governance may increase the agency costs of debt and managerial opportunism at the expense of shareholders. I exploit the introduction of credit default swaps (CDS) as a negative shock to creditor governance. I provide evidence consistent with shareholders pushing for a substitution effect between internal governance and creditor governance. Following CDS introduction, CDS firms reduce managerial risk-taking incentives relative to other firms. At the same time, after the start of CDS trading, CDS firms increase managerial wealth-performance sensitivity, board independence, and CEO turnover performance-sensitivity relative to other firms.

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