NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Nellie Liang

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Working Papers

June 2007Individual Account Investment Options and Portfolio Choice: Behavioral Lessons from 401(k) Plans
with Jeffrey R. Brown, Scott Weisbenner: w13169
This paper examines how the menu of investment options made available to workers in defined contribution plans influences portfolio choice. Using unique panel data of 401(k) plans in the U.S., we present three principle findings. First, we show that the share of investment options in a particular asset class (i.e., company stock, equities, fixed income, and balanced funds) has a significant effect on aggregate participant portfolio allocations across these asset classes. Second, we document that the vast majority of the new funds added to 401(k) plans are high-cost actively managed equity funds, as opposed to lower-cost equity index funds. Third, because the average share of assets invested in low-cost equity index funds declines with an increase in the number of options, average portf...
December 2004Executive Financial Incentives and Payout Policy: Firm Responses to the 2003 Dividend Tax Cut
with Jeffrey R. Brown, Scott Weisbenner: w11002
We test whether executive stock ownership affects firm payouts using the 2003 dividend tax cut to identify an exogenous change in the after-tax value of dividends. We find that executives with higher stock ownership were more likely to increase dividends after the tax cut in 2003, whereas no relation is found in previous periods when the dividend tax rate was higher. Relative to previous years, firms that initiated dividends in 2003 were more likely to reduce repurchases. The stock price reaction to the tax cut suggests that the substitution of dividends for repurchases may have been anticipated, consistent with agency conflicts.
April 2004401(k) Matching Contributions in Company Stock: Costs and Benefits for Firms and Workers
with Jeffrey R. Brown, Scott Weisbenner: w10419
This paper examines why some employers provide matching contributions to 401(k) plans in company stock and explores the implications of match policy for employee retirement wealth. Unlike stock option grants to non-executives, a firm's decision to match in company stock does not appear to be strongly correlated with cash flow or with measures of the benefits of aligning incentives of employees and employers. Rather, we find evidence that firms are more likely to provide the match in company stock if firm risk is low (i.e. lower stock price volatility and lower bankruptcy risk) and employees are also covered by a defined benefit plan. These findings suggest that firms consider the retirement security of their workers in making the match decision, either because firms want to minimize the ri...
August 2002Investor Behavior and the Purchase of Company Stock in 401(k) Plans - The Importance of Plan Design
with Scott Weisbenner: w9131
Using panel data for nearly 1,000 companies during 1991 to 2000, this paper documents that the average share of participant's discretionary 401(k) contributions in company stock was almost 20 percent, and then relates this share to plan design features and firm financial characteristics. We find that the number of investment alternatives offered, n, and whether the company requires some of the match to be in company stock are key factors of the share of total contributions in company stock. We cannot reject the hypothesis that participants invest 1/n of their contributions in company stock. In addition, participants do not offset an employer match in company stock with a smaller share of their own contributions to company stock, contrary to efficient diversification. Workers also appea...

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