Three Essays on Information Asymmetry and Principal-Agent Problems
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In this dissertation, we investigate three different questions that are related to information asymmetry and principal-agent problems. The first question is whether principal-agent conflicts lead executives to influence the design of their own employment contracts to exploit the shareholders; the second is the question whether conflicts of interest hamper the effectiveness of affiliated analysts in detecting and curbing earnings management; and the third is whether small investors are at an informational disadvantage. The three studies provide evidence on the existence of information asymmetry and principal-agent problems in various contexts. In particular, we find that the benchmarking process of executive compensation observed is a remedy of the agency costs incurred; that analysts from independent research firms monitor firms they cover more effectively than analysts affiliated with investment banks; and, strikingly, that small investors actually may have better information regarding firms’ financials even when compared to professional equity analysts. Together, these studies provide new insights into the cornerstone problems of the finance literature.