Learning About CEO Ability and Stock Return Volatility

54 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2013

See all articles by Yihui Pan

Yihui Pan

University of Utah - Department of Finance

Tracy Yue Wang

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Michael S. Weisbach

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2013

Abstract

When there is uncertainty about a CEO's quality, news about the firm causes rational investors to update their expectation of the firm's profitability for two reasons: Updates occur because of the direct effect of the news, and also because the news can cause an updated assessment of the CEO's quality, affecting expectations of his ability to generate future cash flows. As a CEO's quality becomes known more precisely over time, the latter effect becomes smaller, lowering the stock price reaction to news, and hence lowering the stock return volatility. Thus, in addition to uncertainty about fundamentals, uncertainty about CEO quality is also a source of stock return volatility, which decreases over a CEO's tenure as the market learns the CEO's quality more accurately. We formally model this idea, and evaluate its implications using a large sample of CEO turnovers in U.S. public firms. Our estimates indicate that there is statistically significant and economically important market learning about CEO ability, even for CEOs whose appointments appear to be unrelated to their predecessors' performance. Also consistent with the learning model is the fact that the learning curve appears to be convex in time, and learning is faster when there is higher ex ante uncertainty about the CEO's ability and more transparency about the firm's prospects. Overall, uncertainty about management quality appears to be an important source of stock return volatility.

Suggested Citation

Pan, Yihui and Wang, Tracy Yue and Weisbach, Michael S., Learning About CEO Ability and Stock Return Volatility (March 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18882. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2233774

Yihui Pan (Contact Author)

University of Utah - Department of Finance ( email )

David Eccles School of Business
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

Tracy Yue Wang

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Michael S. Weisbach

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Finance ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-1144
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

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