Two Essays on Corporate Finance

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Virginia Tech

This Dissertation consists of two essays. The first essay examines how corporate financial policies depend on the properties of future cash flows. In contrast to prior literature, we investigate the role of asymmetries in the distributionof cash flows. We document the relevance of such asymmetries for firms' payout, liquidity, and capital structure policies. Policies are more sensitive to downside volatility and the directional effect of upside variation is often opposite that of downside. Controlling for cash flow volatility,policies significantly relate to measures of skewness. Firms adopt more conservative policies (lower propensity to pay, more cash, less leverage) when cash flow news is more negatively skewed.

The second essay addresses a mythical relationship between corporate payout and short-termism. Over the past 30 years, aggregate investment by US public corporations has declined, and corporate payout has increased. These facts are interpreted as evidence that public firms are plagued by short-termism and are foregoing valuable investment opportunities to support the large payouts. We find that large increases in corporate payout do not impact firm investment or innovative activities in the short run. In the long run, firms which increase their payout invest more in physical capital than control firms and that their RandD spending is comparable. Firms which increase their payout do not experience a decline in operating profitability or valuation in the long run. These conclusions hold when we restrict our attention to firms who persist in making large payouts and for those high payout firms that rely on internal funds. Our results are inconsistent with the view that unusually high payout harms the long-term viability of US firms. The evidence in the paper suggests that the high payers are from industries with declining growth opportunities but the firms themselves are expecting their high profitability and cash flow to persist.

Cash flow news, asymmetries, volatility, skewness, leverage, cashholdings, payout, dividends, repurchases, short-termism, corporate investment