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Note: Electronic versions of published papers/working papers are provided as a professional courtesy to ensure timely dissemination of the research for individual non-commercial purposes. Copyright, and all other rights therein, reside with the respective copyright holders, as stated within each paper. These files may not be reposted without permission.
Structured Finance Deals: A Review of the Rating Process and Recent Evidence Thereof, 2012, Journal of Investment Management
The pooling and tranching of assets into prioritized cash-flow claims has become a substantial source of revenue for issuers as well as rating agencies in the last decade. With the recent demise of vehicles used to operationalize these structured deals, a natural question arises as to the quality of standards applied in structuring, managing, and ultimately rating these products. The purpose of this paper is to review rating practices in the area of structured finance, and to summarize the research and empirical evidence pertaining to these questions.
It Pays to Have Friends, with Byoung-Hyoun Hwang, 2009, Journal of Financial Economics
Currently, a director is classified as independent if he/she has neither financial nor familial ties to the CEO or to the firm. We add another dimension: social ties. Using a unique data set, we find that 87% of boards are conventionally independent, but that only 62% are conventionally and socially independent. Furthermore, firms whose boards are conventionally and socially independent award a significantly lower level of compensation, exhibit stronger pay performance sensitivity, and exhibit stronger turnover-performance sensitivity than firms whose boards are only conventionally independent. Our results suggest that social ties do matter, and that consequently, a considerable percentage of the conventionally independent boards are substantively not.
Return Performance Surrounding Reverse Stock Splits, with April Klein and James Rosenfeld, 2008, Financial Management
We examine the long-run return performance of over 1,600 firms with reverse stock splits. These stocks record statistically significant negative abnormal returns over the three-year period following the month of the reverse split. The sample firms experience poor operating performances over the four years that include and follow the year of the reverse split, which suggests informational inefficiencies. Because these stocks have unique financial characteristics, we also show that they would be very difficult to sell short. Thus, arbitrageurs would be restricted in their ability to earn abnormal profits, even if they correctly anticipated a price decline.
Working Papers / Works in Progress
Going for Broke: Restructuring Distressed Debt, with Sanjiv Das, 2013
This paper discusses how to restructure a portfolio of distressed debt, what the gains are from doing so, and attributes these gains to restructuring and portfolio effects. This is an interesting and novel problem in fixed-income portfolio management that has received scant modeling attention. We show that debt restructuring is Pareto improving and lucrative for borrowers, lenders, and investors in distressed debt. First, the methodological contribution of the paper is a parsimonious model for the pricing and optimal restructuring of distressed debt, i.e., loans that are under-collateralized and are at risk of borrower default, where willingness to pay and ability to pay are at issue. Distressed-debt investing is a unique portfolio problem in that (a) it requires optimization over all moments, not just mean and variance, and (b) with debt restructuring, the investor can endogenously alter the return distribution of the candidate securities before subjecting them to portfolio construction. Second, economically, we show that post-restructuring return distributions of distressed debt portfolios are attractive to fixed-income investors, with risk-adjusted certainty equivalent yield pick-ups in the hundreds of basis points, suggesting the need for more efficient markets for distressed debt, and shedding light on the current policy debate regarding the use of eminent domain in mitigating real estate foreclosures.
Credit Spreads with Dynamic Debt, with Sanjiv Das, 2013
We extend the baseline Merton (1974) structural default model, which is intended for static debt guarantees, to a setting with dynamic debt, where leverage can be ratcheted up as well as written down through pre-specified policies. For many dynamic debt covenants, ex-ante credit spread term structures can be derived in closed-form using modified barrier option mathematics, whereby debt guarantees can be expressed using combinations of single barrier options (both knock-in and knock-out), double barrier options, double-touch barrier options, in-out barrier options, and one-touch double barrier binary options. We observe that principal write-down covenants decrease the magnitude of credit spreads but increase the slope of the credit curve, transforming downward sloping curves into upward sloping ones. On the other hand, ratchet covenants increase the magnitude of ex-ante spreads without dramatically altering the slope of the credit curve. These covenants may be optimized by appropriately setting restructuring boundaries, which entails a trade-off between the reduction in spreads against restructuring costs. Overall, explicitly modeling this latent option to alter debt leads to term structures of credit spreads that are more consistent with observed empirics.
Directors' Decision-Making Involvement on Corporate Boards, 2013
Using the full set of committee memberships for the directors of Fortune 100 firms (which I collect from annual proxy statements), I introduce a measure to capture the extent of a director's involvement in making decisions that affect corporate policy, and I provide evidence of substantial variation in directors' decision-making power both within and across boards. I also show that considering the entire range of decision-making involvement can alter the implications of tests examining the link between board composition and corporate performance. Specifically, I find that the extent of affiliated directors' committee involvement is substantially and negatively associated with firm value and subsequent operating performance, and I argue that incorporating these differences in decision-making power has important implications for studies in corporate governance.
Social Ties and Earnings Management, with Byoung-Hyoun Hwang, 2012
We detect a significant presence of social ties between the CEO and audit committee members and our results suggest that these informal ties play a material role in audit-committee oversight. In particular, we find a substantially stronger, positive relation between abnormal (i.e., discretionary) accruals and the extent of an audit committee's connection to the CEO when we consider social ties in addition to the conventional ties. Moreover, we find that an audit committee's social affiliation is associated with an increased discontinuity in the earnings distribution surrounding earnings targets. Together, our findings suggest that informal ties play a material role in facilitating creative accounting practices.
Measuring Luck in CEO Outperformance, 2012
Firm performance is a crucial factor in how CEOs are evaluated. However, a CEO can be repeatedly lucky or unlucky, adding noise to performance outcomes as a measure of managerial ability. In this study, I examine how much of the observed cross-sectional dispersion in outcomes can be attributed to differences in luck as opposed to differences in skill. Using bootstrap simulations, I show that, even if all CEOs were equally skilled, we can expect substantial differences in performance outcomes. When comparing the simulated distribution of outcomes to the actual empirical distribution, I find that the best performing CEOs perform too well relative to the median to be completely explained by luck alone. However, the true underlying differences in skill are substantially smaller than suggested by simply looking at the raw performance differential.
Coming Up Short: Managing Underfunded Portfolios in a LDT-BPT Framework, with Sanjiv Das and Meir Statman, 2013
We employ a liability directed investment (LDI) framework built on behavioral portfolio theory (BPT), which we refer to as LDI-BPT, to prescribe remedies for an underfunded portfolio. Investors in the LDI-BPT framework face a risky asset, such as a stock index, and a risk-free bond. They begin with some level of current wealth and set their target wealth at the end of N periods, and their tolerance for shortfalls from that target wealth. Portfolio rebalancing in the LDI-BPT framework is quite different from the common fixed-proportions rebalancing, where portfolio allocations are rebalanced to ratios, such as 60:40, at the beginning of each of N periods. We consider critical issues of underfunding, where there is no portfolio that can meet the shortfall constraint, and we explore the effectiveness of portfolio infusions in resolving underfunded situations, relative to other measures such as increasing risk, cutting back on target liabilities/goals, and extending the portfolio horizon.
Liability Directed Investing in a Behavioral Portfolio Theory Framework, with Sanjiv Das and Meir Statman, 2013
Liability Directed Investing (LDI), like behavioral portfolio theory (BPT), is centered on investors directed to optimal portfolios by their liabilities. The liabilities of pension funds are to their beneficiaries. The liabilities of individuals are their goals - liabilities to themselves. Optimal BPT-LDI portfolios maximize expected terminal wealth subject to the condition that expected shortfalls from their liability, a target terminal wealth, not exceed expected shortfall allowances. We explore initial optimal portfolios and subsequent portfolios as they are rebalanced on the way to the terminal date, highlighting differences between the BPT-LDI rebalancing method and the fixed-proportion and market-proportion rebalancing methods.
Destined for Failure? Risk-Return Tradeoffs and Risk Management Features of Structured Investment Vehicles, with Sanjiv Das, 2013
We model the design of a structured investment vehicle (SIV), specifically, its capital structure, leverage risk controls, and the rollover frequency of senior debt, all of which determine the rating of the senior notes issued by the SIV. Interestingly, we find that instead of providing safety, stringent risk management controls can accelerate the chances of failure, and the optimal risk management choices depend critically on the rollover horizon of the senior notes. Our analysis shows that senior-note ratings are very sensitive to leverage controls, oftentimes more so than to the riskiness of the collateral pool, and that inaccurately modeling fire-sale discounts, i.e., the deadweight costs of defeasance, leads to fragile structures that are not designed to sustain inherent levels of risk or to ensure repayment of principal to senior note holders commensurate with a top quality credit rating. . We also find that the expected losses on senior notes become increasingly sensitive to pool risk (i.e., spread volatility) when leverage controls become more stringent, particularly under shorter roll-over horizons. We also propose two possible avenues of mitigating senior note risk through contingent capital.