Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices

43 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2008 Last revised: 19 Dec 2013

Alex Edmans

London Business School - Institute of Finance and Accounting; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: January 20, 2010

Abstract

This paper analyzes the relationship between employee satisfaction and long-run stock returns. A value-weighted portfolio of the "100 Best Companies to Work For in America" earned an annual four-factor alpha of 3.5% from 1984-2009, and 2.1% above industry benchmarks. The results are robust to controls for firm characteristics, different weighting methodologies and the removal of outliers. The Best Companies also exhibited significantly more positive earnings surprises and announcement returns. These findings have three main implications. First, consistent with human capital-centered theories of the firm, employee satisfaction is positively correlated with shareholder returns and need not represent managerial slack. Second, the stock market does not fully value intangibles, even when independently verified by a highly public survey on large firms. Third, certain socially responsible investing ("SRI") screens may improve investment returns.

Keywords: Employee satisfaction, intangibles, market efficiency, underreaction, mispricing, human capital, socially responsible investing

JEL Classification: G14, J28, M14

Suggested Citation

Edmans, Alex, Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices (January 20, 2010). Journal of Financial Economics 101(3), 621-640, September 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=985735

Alex Edmans (Contact Author)

London Business School - Institute of Finance and Accounting ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

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

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

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