Complicated Firms

49 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2010 Last revised: 19 Apr 2016

See all articles by Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen

Harvard University - Business School (HBS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Dong Lou

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: June 13, 2011


We exploit a novel setting in which the same piece of information affects two sets of firms: one set of firms requires straightforward processing to update prices, while the other set requires more complicated analyses to incorporate the same piece of information into prices. We document substantial return predictability from the set of easy-to-analyze firms to their more complicated peers. Specifically, a simple portfolio strategy that takes advantage of this straightforward vs. complicated information processing classification yields returns of 118 basis points per month. Consistent with processing complexity driving the return relation, we further show that the more complicated the firm, the more pronounced the return predictability. In addition, we find that sell-side analysts are subject to these same information processing constraints, as their forecast revisions of easy-to-analyze firms predict their future revisions of more complicated firms.

Keywords: Complicated trades, return predictability, stand alone, conglomerate, market frictions

JEL Classification: G10, G11, G14

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Lauren and Lou, Dong, Complicated Firms (June 13, 2011). AFA 2011 Denver Meetings Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Lauren Cohen (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Rock Center 321
Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dong Lou

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Department of Finance
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+44 (0)207 1075360 (Phone)


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

United Kingdom

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