Three Essays on Knowledge and Information in Corporate Finance
Lin, Shan S.
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The role of information is central to the study of corporate finance. In the real world where one party usually has more and better information, information asymmetry forms the basis of analysis in many key aspects of modern economics including contract theory and principle-agent problems. Although technology facilitates information flow, information continues to play an important role because we live in an environment in which there is more information and information that is more complex. Moreover, we are experiencing a fundamental shift towards a knowledge-based economy in which ideas and concepts, both in the form of information, gain importance. This thesis examines the role of information as we make this transition in two separate settings: First in a “real impact” setting where knowledge generated at leading research universities spills over into firms nearby, and second, in a "traditional market" setting where analysts help disseminate information. In the post-industrial economy of the 21st century, innovation is the engine of economic growth. As a result, we increasingly value human capital and knowledge. Chapter 2 looks at the location of firms relative to knowledge centers and its impact on stock volatility. I argue that knowledge spillovers foster firm R&D and find supporting evidence. My evidence is consistent with the classic models on the impact of human capital on economic growth (Nelson and Phelps, 1966). Chapter 3 examines the impact of knowledge and innovation on firms’ cash management policies. Bates, Kahle, and Stulz (2009) find that the average cash-to-assets ratio for firms more than doubles in the past decades and attribute it to changing firm characteristics. I identify innovation as a driving force behind these changes, resulting in firms holding more cash as a precaution. In Chapter 4, I study the investment value of information from analysts, or more specifically, analyst target prices. Due to potential conflicts of interest problems, the value that analysts provide to investors remains controversial. Moreover, since the information age is characterized by information overload, it is harder for investors to identify relevant information. I find that institutions trade in the same direction as the consensus target price movement.