Operational Distortion: Compound Effects of Short-termism and Competition
Forthcoming at Management Science
56 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2021
Date Written: September 4, 2021
Practitioners and academics alike have argued that a firm's interest in its short-term capital market valuation (short-termism) is harmful to the firm's long-term profit. Their argument is intuitive -- when a firm exhibits short-termism, its decision making will cater to the short-term at the expense of the long-term. Some practitioners claim that the adverse effects of increased short-termism become particularly acute in competitive markets. However, there is little academic research that examines the compound effect of short-termism and competition on a firm's operational choices and long-term profit. In this paper, we provide a rigorous analytical model to examine how short-termism and competition can interact to induce a firm to distort its capacity investment and affect its long-term profit. We model a firm that has private information about its market demand, which can be either high or low and is captured by the firm's type. Signaling this private information can influence both the investor's valuation and the competitor's entry decision. We find that operational distortion can emerge not only when short-termism is large, but also when it is small. In fact, when short-termism is sufficiently small, both firm types will distort their operational decision by under-investing in a pooling outcome. We show, however, that the impact of short-termism on a firm's long-term profit is not monotonically negative, and a certain level of short-termism can be beneficial to a firm's long-term profit. The positive impact of incremental short-termism is robust to alternative modeling assumptions, including the form of competition and the investor's risk profile.
Keywords: operational distortion, short-termism, competition, information asymmetry, signaling game
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