Thursday, January 6, 2011

Inside Debt and the Design of Corporate Contract

By Divya Anantharaman, Vivian Fang, and Guojin Gong @ HLS Forum.

Agency theory posits that debt-like compensation (such as defined-benefit pensions and other deferred compensation) aligns managerial interests more closely with those of debtholders and reduces the agency cost of debt. Consistent with theory, we find that a higher CEO relative leverage, defined as the ratio of the CEO's inside leverage (debt-to equity compensation) to corporate leverage, is associated with lower cost of debt financing and fewer restrictive covenants, for a sample of private loans originated during 2006-2008. These findings persist after accounting for the endogeneity of CEO relative leverage, and are more pronounced for firms with higher default risk. Additional analysis on a sample of new public bond issues also shows a negative relation between CEO relative leverage and bond yield spread. Overall, the evidence supports the notion that debtholders recognize the incentive effects of executive debt-like compensation and adjust the terms of corporate debt contracts accordingly.

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