Imperfect Financial Markets and Shareholder Incentives in Partial and General Equilibrium

Elias Albagli, Christian Hellwig, Aleh Tsyvinski

NBER Working Paper No. 23419
Issued in May 2017
NBER Program(s):Corporate Finance, Economic Fluctuations and Growth

We analyze the firm-level and aggregate consequences of equity market imperfections in the form of noisy information aggregation for corporate risk-taking and investment. Market imperfections cause controlling shareholders to invest too much in upside risks and too little in downside risks in an attempt to capture market rents. In partial equilibrium, these inefficiencies are particularly severe if upside risks are coupled with near constant returns to scale. In general equilibrium, the shareholders’ collective attempts to boost shareholder value of individual firms leads to a novel pecuniary externality that amplifies investment distortions with downside risks but offsets distortions with upside risks, thereby overturning the results from the partial equilibrium analysis. We consider policy interventions to correct the distortions, and show that in general equilibrium such interventions disrupt the financial market’s allocational role. We analyze extensions of our model to excess leverage, agency conflicts between shareholders and managers, negative welfare effects of transparency, excess sensitivity of investment to stock prices, and dynamically inconsistent firm behavior.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23419

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