Payout Policy in the 21st Century

59 Pages Posted: 23 May 2003  

Alon Brav

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

John R. Graham

Duke University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Campbell R. Harvey

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Roni Michaely

Johnson@Cornell Tech, Cornell University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2003

Abstract

We survey 384 CFOs and Treasurers, and conduct in-depth interviews with an additional two dozen, to determine the key factors that drive dividend and share repurchase policies. We find that managers are very reluctant to cut dividends, that dividends are smoothed through time, and that dividend increases are tied to long-run sustainable earnings but much less so than in the past. Rather than increasing dividends, many firms now use repurchases as an alternative. Paying out with repurchases is viewed by managers as being more flexible than using dividends, permitting a better opportunity to optimize investment. Managers like to repurchase shares when they feel their stock is undervalued and in an effort to affect EPS. Dividend increases and the level of share repurchases are generally paid out of residual cash flow, after investment and liquidity needs are met. Financial executives believe that retail investors have a strong preference for dividends, in spite of the tax disadvantage relative to repurchases. In contrast, executives believe that institutional investors as a class have no strong preference between dividends and repurchases. In general, management views provide at most moderate support for agency, signaling, and clientele hypotheses of payout policy. Tax considerations play only a secondary role. By highlighting where the theory and practice of corporate payout policy are consistent and where they are not, we attempt to shed new light on important unresolved issues related to payout policy in the 21st century.

Suggested Citation

Brav, Alon and Graham, John R. and Harvey, Campbell R. and Michaely, Roni, Payout Policy in the 21st Century (April 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9657. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=398560

Alon Brav

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-2908 (Phone)
919-684-2818 (Fax)

John Robert Graham

Duke University ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-7857 (Phone)
919-660-8030 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Campbell R. Harvey (Contact Author)

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-7768 (Phone)
919-660-8030 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

Roni Michaely

Johnson@Cornell Tech, Cornell University ( email )

111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States

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