Employee Costs of Corporate Bankruptcy
John R. Graham
Duke University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management
Wilfrid Laurier University - School of Business & Economics
McMaster University - Michael G. DeGroote School of Business
June 14, 2016
We show that corporate bankruptcy leads to a significant reduction in employee earnings, which in turn increases financial distress costs for firms via higher ex ante wages. Annual employee earnings deteriorate by 10% when a firm files for bankruptcy and remain below pre-bankruptcy earnings for at least six years. Affected employees are likely to work fewer hours and leave the firm, industry, and local labor market. We estimate that compensating wage differentials for this “bankruptcy risk” increase the present value of ex ante wages paid by the firm by up to 12% of annual wages. Overall, this paper shows that bankruptcy risk reduces risk-sharing between the firm and workers, and the resulting additional labor costs are large enough to be a first-order consideration in corporate capital structure decisions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 62
Keywords: Bankruptcy, labor reallocation, risk sharing, costs of financial distress, capital structure, worker-firm matched data
JEL Classification: G32, G33, J21, J31, J61
Date posted: June 10, 2013 ; Last revised: June 15, 2016
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