Abstract. How do persistent cash flow shocks affect debt repayment across the distribution of households? Using individual data on natural gas shale royalty payments matched with credit bureau data for 215,639 consumers, we estimate that individuals repay 33 cents of debt per dollar of windfall, and that initially-subprime individuals repay approximately 5 times more debt than initially-prime individuals do. This difference in debt repayment is driven by changes to revolving debt balances. Finally, we show that debt repayment precedes durable goods consumption, particularly for households who were initially financially constrained. These results shed new light on how deleveraging affects household consumption.
Echo chambers (with Joey Engelberg and Will Mullins).
NASDAQ Award for Best Paper in Asset Pricing at the 2021 Western Finance Association Conference.
Best Paper in Markets and Trading at the 2021 Midwest Finance Association Conference.
Abstract. We find evidence of selective exposure to confirmatory information among 400,000 users on the investor social network StockTwits. Self-described bulls are 5 times more likely to follow a user with a bullish view of the same stock than self-described bears. Consequently, bulls see 62 more bullish messages and 24 fewer bearish messages than bears over the same 50-day period. These “echo chambers” exist even among professional investors and are strongest for investors who trade on their beliefs. Finally, beliefs formed in echo chambers are associated with lower ex-post returns, more siloing of information and more trading volume.
Abstract. Imprecise language in corporate disclosures can convey valuable information on firms’ fundamentals. We evaluate this idea by developing a linguistic imprecision measure based on sentences marked with the “weasel tag” on Wikipedia. In the 10 weeks after the 10-K disclosure, high linguistic imprecision predicts positive and non-reverting abnormal returns, improvements to stock liquidity, more insider and informed buying, and more positive news sentiment. These findings are driven by disclosures that are more forward-looking and use more R&D terms. Together, our results imply that imprecise language in 10-Ks contains new information on positive but yet immature prospects of future cash flows.
Abstract. We study the effect of investor disagreement on informed trading by activist investors using high-frequency disagreement data derived from the investor social network StockTwits. Greater investor disagreement leads to more trading in the subsequent day by privately-informed activists. Disagreement leads to higher prices and improvements in measured liquidity, but these observed valuation and market liquidity differences do not explain the increase in activist trading. Instead, investor disagreement affects activist trading primarily by facilitating trading by non-activist investors. These findings suggest that investor disagreement not only affects trading by uninformed investors, but also facilitates trading by informed market participants who often take actions aimed at changing corporate policies.
Settling for less information (with Gustaf Bellstam and Diego Garcia). Draft coming soon.
Abstract. We propose a novel textual measure of informativeness of analyst reports, report similarity – the cosine similarity of the report to past reports written about the same firm – and show that it accurately captures the extent of new information in an analyst report. More novel analyst reports (i.e., those with low report similarity) are associated with larger magnitude of market reactions to the report’s release, a difference that cannot be attributed to the quantitative aspects of the report nor differences in the information environment itself. We use the measure to shed new light on how informativeness of analyst reports changed after the Global Research Settlement, a regulatory shock that reduced incentives and access to information for analyst employed at investment banks, but not other analysts. In a difference-in-difference design, we find that analyst reports become more similar to one another after the shock, particularly for analysts affected by the shock. Though analyst reports are less biased after the regulation as intended, our results imply that regulating bias in analyst reports may also reduce information.
Abstract. We study the effect of personal wealth on entrepreneurial decisions using data on mineral payments from Texas shale drilling to individuals throughout the United States. Large cash windfalls increase business formation by 0.8 to 2.1 percentage points, but do not affect transitions to self-employment. By contrast, cash windfalls significantly extend self-employment spells, but do not affect the duration of business ownership. Our findings help reconcile contrasting findings in prior work: liquidity constraints have different effects on entrepreneurial activity that may depend on the entrepreneur’s motivations.
Abstract. We develop a new measure of innovation using the text of analyst reports of S&P 500 firms. Our text-based measure gives a useful description of innovation by firms with and without patenting and R&D (research and development). For nonpatenting firms, the measure identifies innovative firms that adopt novel technologies and innovative business practices (e.g., Walmart’s cross-geography logistics). For patenting firms, the text-based measure strongly correlates with valuable patents, which likely capture true innovation. The text-based measure robustly forecasts greater firm performance and growth opportunities for up to four years, and these value implications hold just as strongly for innovative nonpatenting firms.
Abstract. Using a tractable structural model of the matching equilibrium between underwriters and equity-issuing firms, we study the determinants of value in underwriter–firm relationships. Our estimates imply that high underwriter prestige is associated with 5.3%–14.1% greater equilibrium surplus. According to the structural model, high prestige exhibits a significant certification effect throughout the sample (1985–2010), but there is also a countervailing effect of underwriter prestige that reflects subscriber preferences for more underpricing. Consistent with trading off profits from issuers and subscribers, high-prestige underwriters underprice more in hot markets when rents to catering to subscribers are greatest.
Abstract. We use party-identifying language—like “liberal media” and “MAGA”—to identify Republican users on the investor social platform StockTwits. Using a difference-in-difference design, we find that partisan Republicans remain relatively unfazed in their beliefs about equities during the COVID-19 pandemic, while other users become considerably more pessimistic. In cross-sectional tests, we find Republicans become relatively more optimistic about stocks that suffered the most during the COVID-19 crisis, but more pessimistic about Chinese stocks. Finally, stocks with the greatest partisan disagreement on StockTwits have significantly more trading in the broader market, explaining 28% of the increase in stock turnover during the pandemic.
Abstract. We study sources of investor disagreement using sentiment of investors from a social media investing platform, combined with information on the users' investment approaches (e.g., technical, fundamental). We examine how much of overall disagreement is driven by different information sets versus differential interpretation of information by studying disagreement within and across investment approaches. Overall disagreement is evenly split between both sources of disagreement, but within-group disagreement is more tightly related to trading volume than cross-group disagreement. Although both sources of disagreement are important, our findings suggest that information differences are more important for trading than differences across market approaches.
Abstract. Early life exposure to local financial institutions increases household financial inclusion and leads to long-term improvements in consumer credit outcomes. We identify the effect of local financial markets using Congressional legislation that led to unintended differences in financial market development across Native American reservations. Individuals from financially underdeveloped reservations enter consumer credit markets later, and upon reaching adulthood, have ten point lower credit scores and four percentage point more delinquent accounts. These effects are long-lived and depreciate slowly after individuals move to more developed areas. Formative exposures to local banking improve consumer credit behavior by increasing financial literacy and financial trust.
Abstract. This paper provides novel evidence that stronger contract enforcement mitigates holdup in business investment decisions using stark, externally imposed variation in contract enforcement across Native American reservations. My tests focus on the golf course industry. A high degree of sunk costs and long investment horizons in this industry make it naturally subject to the classical holdup problem. I find that state courts, which provide stronger contract enforcement than do tribal courts, lead to at least 27% more golf courses, with greater effects in areas with greater natural amenities. These findings suggest that courts play an important role in facilitating the oft-discussed contractual solutions to the holdup problem.
Abstract. Prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts, which allocate interest using lottery payments rather than fixed interest, encourage savings by appealing to households’ gambling preferences. I introduce new data on casino cash withdrawals to measure gambling, and examine how individual gambling expenditures respond to the introduction of PLS in Nebraska using a difference-in-differences design. After PLS is introduced, individuals who live in counties that offer PLS reduce gambling by at least 3% more than unaffected individuals. The substitution effect is stronger in low-frills gambling environments, which most resemble PLS, indicating that these accounts fulfill the desire to gamble.
Abstract. Using new data on entry plans into the American casino industry, I find that incumbent firms invest in physical capacity when threatened with a nearby entry plan, and these strategic investments deter eventual entry. Consistent with an entry-deterrence motive, incumbents respond to the threat of entry when entry is uncertain, but not when entry is assured. The average capacity expansion of 2,300 square feet is associated with a 6.8-percentage-point greater likelihood that the entry plan fails. These findings show that investments in deterrence are viable, especially when new entrants face other significant barriers to entry.
Abstract. This paper provides novel evidence on the real and financial market effects of legal institutions. Our analysis exploits persistent and externally imposed differences in court enforcement that arose when the U.S. Congress assigned state courts to adjudicate contracts on a subset of Native American reservations. Using area-specific data on small business lending, we find that reservations assigned to state courts, which enforce contracts more predictably than tribal courts, have stronger credit markets. Moreover, the law-driven component of credit market development is associated with significantly higher per capita income, with stronger effects in sectors that depend more on external financing.
Abstract. We show that court enforcement uncertainty hinders economic development using sharp variation in judiciaries across Native American reservations in the United States. Congressional legislation passed in 1953 assigned state courts the authority to resolve civil disputes on a subset of reservations, while tribal courts retained authority on unaffected reservations. Although affected and unaffected reservations had similar economic conditions when the law passed, reservations under state courts experienced significantly greater long-run growth. When we examine the distribution of incomes across reservations, the average difference in development is due to the lower incomes of the most impoverished reservations with tribal courts. We show that the relative under-development of reservations with tribal courts is driven by reservations with the most uncertainty in court enforcement.
Abstract. This paper empirically investigates the effect of leverage on strategic preemption. Using new data on entry plans and incumbent investments from the American casino industry, I find that high leverage prevents incumbents from responding to entry threats. Facing the same set of entry plans, low-leverage incumbents expand physical capacity (by 30%), whereas high-leverage incumbents do not. This difference in investment matters because capacity installations preempt eventual entry. Stock market reactions to withdrawn plans imply that effective preemption increases incumbent firm value by 5%. My findings suggest that leverage matters for industry composition, not just firm-level investment.
Abstract. We provide new estimates of merger value creation by exploiting revealed preferences of merging banks within a matching market framework. We find that merger value arises from cost efficiencies in overlapping markets, relaxing of regulation, and network effects exhibited by the acquirer-target matching. Beyond our findings, the revealed preference method has notable advantages that warrant its application beyond the bank merger market. Notably, we show that the method outperforms reduced form alternatives out of sample, enables sensible counterfactual experiments, and can be used to evaluate private-to-private mergers, which have been understudied because of lack of stock market data.
Abstract. This paper empirically investigates the institutional determinants of whether a tribal government invests in a casino. I find that the presence of Indian casinos is strongly related to plausibly exogenous variation in reservations’ legal and political institutions. Tribal governments that can negotiate gaming compacts with multiple state governments, because tribal lands span state borders, had more than twice the estimated probability (.77 versus .32) of operating an Indian casino in 1999. Tribal governments of reservations where contracts are adjudicated in state courts, rather than tribal courts, have more than twice the estimated probability (.76 versus .34) of investing in an Indian casino, ceteris paribus. These findings suggest that states’ political pressures and predictable judiciaries affect incentives to invest in casinos. This study contributes, more generally, to the empirical literature on the effects of institutions by providing new evidence that low-cost contracting is important for taking advantage of substantial investment opportunities.
At Leeds School of Business (2013 - present)