Learning, Active Investors, and the Returns of Financially Distressed Firms
Christian C. Opp
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; University of Pennsylvania - Finance Department
June 14, 2012
I develop a dynamic asset pricing model to analyze expected returns of financially distressed firms in the presence of learning about firm fundamentals and endogenous information acquisition by active investors that acquire large stakes in distressed firms via private investments in public equity. The model reveals that learning and information acquisition critically affect risk exposures close to default and can rationalize low and even negative expected equity returns for firms with high default risk. Similar to Schumpeter's (1934) argument that recessions have a positive, cleansing effect on the economy, the model reveals that equity holders may benefit from the increased speed of learning about insolvent firms in downturns, which increases the value of their abandonment option in these times. Equity holders' option value is further enhanced by the ability to partially free-ride on active investors' acquisition of information on firm fundamentals. Both information channels are shown to affect equity betas, and may account for striking, momentum-type dynamics in risk premia.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: learning, financial distress, distress anomaly, momentum, active investors, PIPEsworking papers series
Date posted: November 27, 2012
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