CEO Overconfidence and Corporate Investment
76 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2002
Date Written: October 13, 2002
We explore behavioral explanations for sub-optimal corporate investment decisions. Focusing on the sensitivity of investment to cash flow, we argue that personal characteristics of chief executive officers, in particular overconfidence, can account for this widespread and persistent investment distortion. Overconfident CEOs overestimate the quality of their investment projects and view external finance as unduly costly. As a result, they invest more when they have internal funds at their disposal. We test the overconfidence hypothesis, using data on personal portfolio and corporate investment decisions of CEOs in Forbes 500 companies. We classify CEOs as overconfident if they repeatedly fail to exercise options that are highly in the money, or if they habitually acquire stock of their own company. The main result is that investment is significantly more responsive to cash flow if the CEO displays overconfidence. In addition, we identify personal characteristics other than overconfidence (education, employment background, cohort, military service, and status in the company) that strongly affect the correlation between investment and cash flow.
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