Do Firms in Countries with Poor Protection of Investor Rights Hold More Cash?

Lee Pinkowitz, Rene M. Stulz, Rohan Williamson

NBER Working Paper No. 10188
Issued in December 2003
NBER Program(s):Corporate Finance

Managers make different decisions in countries with poor protection of investor rights and poor financial development. One possible explanation is that shareholder-wealth maximizing managers face different tradeoffs in such countries (the tradeoff theory). Alternatively, firms in such countries are less likely to be managed for the benefit of shareholders because the poor protection of investor rights makes it easier for management and controlling shareholders to appropriate corporate resources for their own benefit (the agency costs theory). Holdings of liquid assets by firms across countries are consistent with Keynes' transaction and precautionary demand for money theories. Firms in countries with greater GDP per capita hold more cash as predicted. Controlling for economic development, firms in countries with more risk and with poor protection of investor rights hold more cash. The tradeoff theory and the agency costs theory can both explain holdings of liquid assets across countries. However, the fact that a dollar of cash is worth less than $0.65 to the minority shareholders of firms in such countries but worth approximately $1 in countries with good protection of investor rights and high financial development is only consistent with the agency costs theory.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10188

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