Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Erik P. Gilje


This dissertation has three independent chapters. The first chapter investigates how the environmental liability of lenders affects debtors' behavior. I use U.S. Census Bureau micro-data and the passage of the Lender Liability Act as a novel identification strategy to answer this question. Firms increase on-site pollution, cut investment in abatement technology, and incur 17.54% more environmental regulatory violations when secured lenders become less responsible for the cleanup cost of their collateral. The effects are stronger for firms close to bankruptcy or with high environmental risks. This lower environmental compliance slightly benefits employment, but does not change wages or production. Overall, financial constraints that may be alleviated due to reduced lender liability do not result in pollution mitigation investment or increased production; instead, my findings suggest that reduced lender liability lessens banks’ incentives to influence the practices of their debtors.

The second chapter studies how Private Equity (PE) firms affect firms' environmental outcomes in the oil and gas industry. On average PE ownership leads to a 70% reduction in the use of toxic chemicals and a 50% reduction in satellite-based measures of CO2 emissions. However, this average effect hides significant heterogeneities. PE-backed firms increase pollution in locations and periods where environmental liability risk is low, as shown by a novel natural experiment that reduced these risks for projects located on federal and Native American territories. Overall, high-powered incentives to maximize shareholder value may benefit environmental outcomes when the risk of environmental regulation is high.

The third chapter is joint work with J. Anthony Cookson, Erik Gilje, Rawley Heimer. We study the effect of personal wealth on entrepreneurial decisions using data on mineral payments from Texas shale drilling to individuals throughout the United States. Large cash windfalls increase business formation by 0.8 to 2.1 percentage points, but do not affect transitions to self-employment. By contrast, cash windfalls significantly extend self-employment spells, but do not affect the duration of business ownership. Our findings help reconcile contrasting findings in prior work: liquidity constraints have different effects on entrepreneurial activity that may depend on the entrepreneur’s motivations.

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