Essays in Empirical Corporate Finance

This dissertation consists of three chapters. The first chapter examines whether the availability of credit default swaps (CDS) has consequences for creditor governance. CDSs offer creditors the opportunity to hedge credit risk and may impact their willingness to renegotiate debt agreements after covenant violations and to monitor firms. I show that firms implement more conservative investment and financing policies after covenant violations if CDSs are traded on their debt, consistent with heightened renegotiation frictions. Moreover, firms with traded CDS contracts exhibit significantly worse operating and stock performance after covenant violations. Overall, these findings point to an exacerbation of debt-equity conflicts due to the availability of CDSs. Finally, I analyze the interaction of creditor governance and internal governance, and provide evidence suggesting that the possibility to hedge risk through CDSs also reduces creditors'€™ incentives to monitor firms. The second chapter models 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 prediction. 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. The third chapter analyzes the impact of the formation of universal banks on corporate investment by looking at the gradual dismantling of the Glass-Steagall Act'€™s separation between commercial and investment banking. Using a matched sample of U.S. firms and their relationship banks, I show that firms curtail investment after positive shocks to the underwriting capacity of their main bank. This result is driven by unrated firms and is strongest in the first two years after a shock. Moreover, I obtain similar results for borrowing firms'€™ net debt issuance activity. As an exogenous shock to the formation of universal banks in the U.S., I also use the 1997 loosening of restrictions on commercial banks'€™ securities activities. My findings suggest that universal banks may pay more attention to large and transparent firms that provide more underwriting opportunities while exacerbating financial constraints of opaque firms.


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