Patents and citations are powerful tools increasingly used in financial economics (and management research more broadly) to understand innovation. Biases may result, however, from the interactions between the truncation of patents and citations and the changing composition of inventors. When aggregated at the firm level, these patent and citation biases can survive popular adjustment methods and are correlated with firm characteristics. These issues can lead to problematic inferences. We provide an actionable checklist to avoid biased inferences and also suggest machine learning as a potential new way to address these problems.
We study the effects of patent scope and review times on startups and externalities on their rivals. We leverage the quasi-random assignment of U.S. patent applications to examiners and find that grant delays reduce a startup’s employment and sales growth, chances of survival, access to external capital, and future innovation. Delays also harm the growth, access to external capital, and follow-on innovation of the patentee’s rivals, suggesting that quick patents enhance both inventor rewards and generate positive externalities. Broader scope increases a startup’s future growth (conditional on survival) and innovation but imposes negative externalities on its rivals’ growth and innovation.
We show that institutional investors are more likely to invest in firms from regions to which they have stronger social ties but find no evidence that these investments earn a differential return. Firms in regions with stronger social ties to locations with many institutional investors have higher valuations and liquidity. These effects are largest for small firms with little analyst coverage, suggesting that the investors’ behavior is explained by their increased awareness of firms in socially proximate locations. Our results highlight that the social structure of regions affects firms’ access to capital and contributes to geographic differences in economic outcomes.
We show that mutual fund ratings generate correlated demand that creates systematic price fluctuations. Mutual fund investors chase fund performance via Morningstar ratings. Until June 2002, funds pursuing the same investment style had highly correlated ratings. Therefore, rating-chasing investors directed capital into winning styles, generating style-level price pressures, which reverted over time. In June 2002, Morningstar reformed its methodology of equalizing ratings across styles. Style-level correlated demand via mutual funds immediately became muted, significantly altering the time-series and cross-sectional variation in style returns.
We investigate the structure of mutual funds’ corporate governance preferences as revealed by how they vote their shares in portfolio companies. We apply unsupervised learning tools from the machine learning literature to analyze mutual funds’ votes and find that a parsimonious two-dimensional model can explain the bulk of mutual fund voting. The dimensions capture competing visions of corporate governance and are related to the leading proxy advisors’ recommendations. Cluster analysis shows that mutual funds are organized into three “parties”—the Traditional Governance Party, Shareholder Reform Party, and Shareholder Protest Party—that follow distinctive philosophies of corporate governance and shareholders’ role.
We document that the relation between firm value and the use of takeover defenses is positive for young firms but becomes negative as firms age. This value reversal pattern reflects specific changes in the costs and benefits of takeover defenses as firms age and arises because defenses are sticky and rarely removed. Firms can attenuate the value reversal by removing defenses, but do so only when the defenses become very costly and adjustment costs are low. The value reversal explains previous mixed evidence about takeover defenses and implies that firm age proxies for takeover defenses’ heterogeneous impacts on firm value.
Public pension boards fear inciting stakeholder outrage if they compensate internal investment managers with market-level salaries. We derive theoretical implications in an agency-portfolio-choice model motivated by inequality aversion. In a global sample, relaxing the effect of outrage on contracting leads to an average annual incremental value-added of $49 million generated through 11 bps in higher excess returns from risky assets, at the cost of $302,429 in additional compensation. Governance reforms that address outrage by reducing political appointees or requiring independent skills-based boards can increase the annual value-added. These findings are orthogonal to costly political distortions from underfunding and pay-to-play schemes.
To understand what motivates individuals to look at their pension situation and make adequate savings decisions, we conduct two field experiments with 226,946 and 257,433 pension fund participants. We find peer-information statements do not increase the rate at which individuals check their pension information, but lottery-type financial incentives do. Offering a few large prizes rather than many small prizes is most effective. However, the uptake of pension information does not lead to improved pension knowledge nor to increased self-reported savings three weeks after our intervention.