Corporate Governance, Debt, and Investment Policy during the Great Depression

Management Science, 57(12), pp. 2083–2100 (2011)

33 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2008 Last revised: 13 Sep 2019

See all articles by John R. Graham

John R. Graham

Duke University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Sonali Hazarika

Zicklin School of Business, Department of Economics and Finance, Baruch College - The City University of New York

Krishnamoorthy Narasimhan

PIMCO

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2011

Abstract

We study a period of severe disequilibrium to investigate whether board characteristics are related to corporate investment, debt usage, and firm value. During the 1920s and the post-Depression years, we find no relation between firm performance and board attributes. During the 1930-1938 Depression era, when the corporate sector was shocked by an unprecedented downturn, we document a relation between board characteristics and firm performance that varies in economically sensible ways: Complex firms (that would benefit more from board advice) exhibit a positive relation between board size and firm value, and simple firms exhibit a negative relation between board size and firm value (consistent with the benefits of larger boards for simple firms being offset by increased costs). Simple firms with large boards also invest more (or shrink less) and use more debt (or reduce debt less) during the 1930s. Companies with properly aligned governance structures are also more likely to replace the company president following poor performance. We document similar effects for the number of outside directors on the board. The results are consistent with agency problems existing in simple firms with large boards during the Depression, and these firms not downsizing adequately in response to a severe economic contraction.

Keywords: Corporate Governance, Capital Structure, Investment Policy, Great Depression, Firm Stock Market Value

JEL Classification: G31, G32, G34

Suggested Citation

Graham, John Robert and Hazarika, Sonali and Narasimhan, Krishnamoorthy, Corporate Governance, Debt, and Investment Policy during the Great Depression (December 2011). Management Science, 57(12), pp. 2083–2100 (2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1100720

John Robert Graham (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

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Durham, NC 27708-0120
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Sonali Hazarika

Zicklin School of Business, Department of Economics and Finance, Baruch College - The City University of New York ( email )

17 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://zicklin.baruch.cuny.edu/faculty-profile/sonali-hazarika/

Krishnamoorthy Narasimhan

PIMCO ( email )

United States

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