Empirical Corporate Finance

Capital Structure

The author integrates under firm-specific benefit functions to estimate that the capitalized tax benefit of debt equals 9.7 percent of firm value (or as low as 4.3 percent, net of personal taxes). The typical firm could double tax benefits by issuing debt until the marginal tax benefit begins to decline. He infers how aggressively a firm uses debt by observing the shape of its tax benefit function. Paradoxically, large, liquid, profitable firms with low expected distress costs use debt conservatively. Product market factors, growth options, low asset collateral, and planning for future expenditures lead to conservative debt usage. Conservative debt policy is persistent.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers are the mechanisms that redraw the boundaries of the firm. In this paper, the authors relate incomplete contracts, upon which much of our understanding of firm boundaries is based, to empirical regularities in the market for mergers and acquisitions. They begin by empirically challenging conventional wisdom about mergers and acquisitions: high M/B acquirers typically do not purchase low M/B targets. Instead, mergers typically pair together firms with similar M/B ratios. To show why this occurs, they build a continuous time model of investment and merger activity that combines search, relative scarcity, and asset complementarity. Their model shows that the “like buys like” empirical finding is a natural consequence of a prediction from the property rights theory of the firm; namely, that complementary assets should be placed under common control. A number of new empirical predictions emerge from their analysis. First, if asset complementarity is important, then we should see small differences in the M/B of targets and acquirers. It also predicts that the difference in M/B ratios should increase when discount rates are high and valuations are low. In additional tests, the authors show that both of these predictions are borne out by the data. Their findings suggest that the incomplete contracts theory of the firm is central to understanding the empirical regularities of the market for mergers and acquisitions.