Attention for the Inattentive: Positive Effects of Negative Financial Shocks
61 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2016 Last revised: 17 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 2017
Using unique data on employee ownership plans sponsored by U.S. public companies, we find that large negative market shocks lead to active changes in portfolio choices among inexperienced and previously inattentive investors. We use employee ownership plans to identify a set of inexperienced investors who did not actively select to participate in the market and who are confronted with a difficult financial decision. These investors appear inattentive at the beginning of the sample. However, following the 2008 Financial Crisis, they are more likely to exercise options, sell restricted stock and participate in an ESPP. We argue these changes are most likely welfare increasing, since the passive default option (nonparticipation) in the ESPP leaves money on the table. Our results suggest a new wrinkle in our understanding of how investors’ personal return experiences interact with risk preferences. Negative shocks mitigate investor inattention on the extensive margin. Thus, at least along certain dimensions, these shocks can induce investors to make decisions that are closer to the optimum.
Keywords: Attention, Financial Crisis, Employee Ownership, ESPP
JEL Classification: D12, D14, D81, G11, J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation