Three Essays on Corporate Policies
Faculty Advisor: Maria Guadalupe
Different fields of economics have historically tended to focus on firms' strategies in isolation. In contrast, a lot of the recent work explores how various aspects of firm behavior interact with each other. This dissertation contributes to this growing literature by studying the interdependences of organizational and financial policies within firms in different contexts.
The first essay studies the interactions between acquisition decisions of multinationals and innovation decisions in the subsidiaries they buy. My coauthors Maria Guadalupe and Catherine Thomas, and I use a rich panel dataset of Spanish manufacturing firms and a propensity score reweighting estimator to show that multinational firms acquire the most productive domestic firms, which, on acquisition, conduct more product and process innovation (simultaneously adopting new machines and organizational practices) and adopt foreign technologies, leading to higher productivity. The proposed model of endogenous selection and innovation in heterogeneous firms can explain both the observed selection patterns and the innovation decisions. The innovation upon acquisition is further shown in the data to be associated with the increased market scale provided by the parent firm, thereby highlighting the role of foreign ownership in increasing the benefits from innovation. This work has potentially important implications for the evolution of within-industry productivity distributions. Under the mechanism described in the paper, foreign entry may lead to divergence of productivity and contribute to the stylized fact of large and persistent productivity differences even within narrowly defined industries.
I further use this rich dataset in my second essay to establish a causal relationship between the use of flexible contractual arrangements with labor and capital structure of the firm. Using the exogenous inter-temporal variation from government subsidies, I find that hiring more temporary workers leads firms to have more debt. Since temporary workers, unlike permanent ones, can be fired at a much lower cost during their contract duration, or their contracts may be not extended upon expiration, a firm can more easily meet its interest payments and avoid bankruptcy when faced with a negative shock. I interpret this result as evidence of flexible workforce decreasing operating leverage which, in turn, promotes financial leverage. This study therefore contributes to the literature exploring the interactions between firm employment decisions and corporate policies by providing evidence for a new channel - the one of flexible employment contracts. Given the overwhelming extent of labor reforms in continental Europe in recent years that are aimed at offering more job security to workers, it is important to understand how such policies would affect firms, and for that it is necessary to model the interdependences of firms' strategies.
Finally, my third essay looks at a different type of firms - hedge funds. Although, they do not produce goods in a strict sense of the word, they provide valuable services to investors by smartly investing into large selections of assets. Hedge funds are a very interesting type of financial firms to study due to their lower regulation and reporting standards that enable them to use some know-how trading strategies and potentially outperform other investors. A part of such outperformance can be explained by higher risks born by certain hedge funds, which outlines the broad question we explore in this paper with my coauthor Sergiy Gorovyy. We use a proprietary dataset obtained from a fund of funds to study the risk premia associated with hedge fund transparency, liquidity, complexity, and concentration over the period from April 2006 to March 2009. We are able to directly measure these qualitative characteristics by using the internal grades that the fund of funds attached to all the funds it invested in, and that represent the unique information that cannot be obtained from quantitative data alone. Consistent with factor models of risk premium, we find that during the normal times low-transparency, low-liquidity, low-complexity, and high-concentration funds delivered a return premium, with economic magnitudes of 5% to 10% per year, while during bad states of the economy, these funds experienced significantly lower returns. We also offer a novel explanation for why highly concentrated funds command a risk premium by revealing that it is mostly prevalent among the non-transparent funds where investors are unaware about the exact risks they are facing and hence cannot diversify them away. The large an significant return premium associated with more secretive, less transparent hedge funds has an important policy implication with respect to whether hedge funds should be required to disclose the information regarding their trades and positions, especially in the light of the recent regulatory changes, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act passed in July 2010, the consequences of which are yet to be evaluated.