Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Finance

First Advisor

Michael R. Roberts

Abstract

This dissertation studies the effects of informational asymmetries on corporate finance. Two distinct settings are considered, one empirical and one theoretical.

In the first chapter, I show that strong creditor rights facilitate the financing of innovation, using a novel dataset of patent collateral portfolios. Using the random timing of court decisions as a source of exogenous variation in creditor rights, I show that patenting companies raise more debt financing when they can more credibly pledge their patents as collateral. Consequently, R&D investment and patenting output also increase, as do the technological diversity and average citation count of the patents produced. These findings demonstrate that low leverage in innovative industries is due to information asymmetry, not incentive problems, and that a strengthening of creditor rights alleviates this friction by increasing collateral values.

In the second chapter, we identify three new factors that affect the firm's decision between equity issuance and asset sales in the presence of information asymmetry. First, equity investors own a claim to the capital raised, which mitigates the information asymmetry of the underlying balance sheet (the "certainty effect"). Second, firms can disguise the sale of a low-quality asset as instead motivated by dissynergies, and thus receive a higher price (the "camouflage effect"). Third, unlike with an equity issuance, a "lemons" discount on assets need not lead to a low stock price, as the asset is not a carbon copy of the firm (the "correlation effect"). The findings demonstrate that information asymmetry is a function of the nature and purpose of the firm's financing decisions.

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