The separation of ownership and control for public firms may lead to fully dispersed ownership where no shareholder has an incentive to engage in governance. This column argues that blockholders (owners of large stakes) play a critical role in long-term governance, partly through a credible threat to sell their stakes. This threat is undermined by well-intentioned policy moves to create holding-period incentives and requirements. If they succeed, these policies will make exit less likely and blockholders will lose a method to discipline managers.
Alex Edmans, Cifford Holderness, 15 September 2016
Santosh Anagol, Vimal Balasubramaniam, Tarun Ramadorai, 17 July 2016
Evidence of the ‘endowment effect’ – ownership of an asset changing one’s valuation of it – runs counter to standard microeconomic theory. This column uses evidence from the Indian stock market’s random allocation of shares in IPOs to show that endowment effects do occur in even outside of controlled experiments, and correlate highly with measures of market experience. This evidence suggests that agents’ inertial behaviour explains endowment effects better than standard explanations.
Christopher Woolard, Kevin James, Joseph Stiglitz, Luigi Zingales, Matteo Aquilina , John Kay, Eric Budish, Thom Wetzer, 24 June 2016
Financial markets account for a large sector of the economy, and understanding their effectiveness is of critical importance. In this video, participants including Joseph Stiglitz, Financial Times columnist John Kay, and Luigi Zingales discuss new approaches to the issue. In order for financial markets to work for our society, broad consensus is needed. This video was recorded in February 2016 at the “Understanding Financial Markets Effectiveness: New Approaches” Conference jointly organized by the FCA and the Systemic Risk Centre at LSE.
Jon Danielsson, Robert Macrae, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 24 June 2016
Brexit creates new opportunities and new risks for the British and EU financial markets. Both could benefit, but a more likely outcome is a fall in the quality of financial regulations, more inefficiency, more protectionism, and more systemic risk.
Julia Tanndal, Daniel Waldenström, 13 April 2016
Financial deregulation in the US has been shown to be associated with rising income inequality over the past four decades. This column looks at the income effects of financial deregulation in the UK and Japan during the 1980s and 1990s. As in the US, deregulation substantially increased the shares of income going to the very top of the distribution. These findings highlight the importance of financial markets in the evolution of income inequality in society.
John Armour, Colin Mayer, Andrea Polo, 24 March 2016
Following the Global Crisis, regulators around the world have shown a greater commitment to investigating and sanctioning corporate wrongdoers. This column argues that fines are only one (surprisingly small) component of the overall sanctions available to regulators. Reputational sanctions are, for some categories of misconduct, far more potent than direct penalties.
Roel Beetsma, Siert Vos, 23 February 2016
There is a broad consensus that banks and insurance companies may contribute to systemic risk in the financial system. For other financial market institutions, it is less clear-cut. This column examines the resilience of pension funds to severe shocks. While the evidence indicates that they are of low systematic importance, policy trends that apply to all financial players may undermine this. Specifically, risk-based solvency requirements carry the risk of homogenising the behaviour of all players, potentially amplifying shocks and destabilising markets.
Nils Herger, Steve McCorriston, 31 January 2016
A key feature of globalisation over the last three decades has been the wave-like growth of foreign direct investment. This column shows that conglomerate cross-border acquisitions, which are closely associated with mispricing in financial markets, play a significant role in explaining these developments.
Joshua Aizenman, 03 January 2016
The Global Crisis renewed debate on the benefits and limitations of coordinating international macro policies. This column highlights the rare conditions that lead to international cooperation, along with the potential benefits for the global economy. In normal times, deeper macro cooperation among countries is associated with welfare gains of a second-order magnitude, making the odds of cooperation low. When bad tail events induce imminent and correlated threats of destabilised financial markets, the perceived losses have a first-order magnitude. The apprehension of these losses in times of peril may elicit rare and beneficial macro cooperation.
George Karolyi, David Ng, Eswar Prasad, 12 December 2015
Few economists understate the importance of emerging market economies in terms of world GDP and global growth prospects. This column asks where the future of emerging markets’ investments lie. Where investors have focused in the past and institutional path dependency are important determinants of emerging markets’ allocation of international investment portfolios. This has implications for the geographical distribution of emerging markets’ portfolio investments, a force to reckon with in international financial markets.
Jiangtao Fu, Daichi Shimamoto, Yasuyuki Todo, 01 December 2015
It has been widely argued that firms obtain loans with relaxed terms if they are politically connected. This column presents evidence from Indonesia that firms whose owners or directors have a personal relationship with a politician are more likely to have their loans approved by state-owned banks, and are more likely to receive the full amount applied for. However, the labour productivity of such firms is on average lower. This suggests that in some cases, politically connected lending may distort the efficiency of resource allocation and be detrimental to economic development.
Yves Zenou, 08 January 2015
Targeting key players in a network can have important effects due to multipliers arising from peer effects. This column argues that this is particularly true for crime –the success in reducing crime in Chicago was due to the targeting of 400 key players rather than spending resources on more general targets. Key-player policies in crime, education, R&D networks, financial networks, and diffusion of microfinance outperform other policies such as targeting the most active agents in a network.
Robert Townsend, Weerachart Kilenthong, 09 November 2014
In the aftermath of the Global Crisis, models with pecuniary externalities have gained popularity. This column presents a new framework that encompasses many of these externalities. The authors also show how to design financial contracts and markets in such a way that ex ante competition can achieve a constrained-efficient allocation.
Peter Koudijs, Joachim Voth, 12 April 2014
Human behaviour in times of financial crises is difficult to understand, but critical to policymaking. This column discusses new evidence showing that personal experience in financial markets can dramatically change risk tolerance. A cleanly identified historical episode demonstrates that even without losses, negative shocks not only modify risk appetite, but can also create ‘leverage cycles’. These, in turn, have the potential to make markets extremely fragile. Remarkably, those who witnessed this episode but were not directly threatened by it, did not change their own behaviour. Thus, personal experience can be a powerful determinant of investors’ actions and can eventually affect aggregate instability.
Bryan Kelly, Lubos Pastor, Pietro Veronesi, 31 March 2014
Despite obvious ties between political uncertainty and financial markets, the nature of this connection has not been studied in detail. This column describes a theoretical framework for evaluating the influence of political uncertainty on financial markets. Political uncertainty commands a risk premium, especially when the economy is weak. By raising firms’ cost of capital, it depresses investment and real activity. Furthermore, by raising risk premia, political uncertainty destroys market value.
Ian Dew-Becker, Stefano Giglio, 20 October 2013
Stabilisation policy should focus on the frequencies consumers care most about. This column presents evidence from stock-market returns suggesting that consumers are willing to pay the most to avoid – and are therefore most concerned about – fluctuations that last tens or hundreds of years. Modern macroeconomic theory tends to view the role of monetary policy as smoothing out inflation and unemployment over the business cycle. The authors’ findings suggest that resources would be better spent on policies that smooth out longer-run fluctuations.
Nicola Anderson, Joseph Noss, 03 September 2013
Financial prices display ‘fractal’ properties. This column conjectures that this is caused by interactions among agents with different horizons and interpretations of information. This structure appears to be associated with a special sort of stability that can be disrupted – leading to price crashes – if these interaction breaks down. While embryonic, this thinking may have important implications for the regulation of financial markets.
Alex Edmans, Vivian Fang, Emanuel Zur, 16 February 2013
The stock market is a powerful tool for controlling corporations’ behaviour. But which is better, a highly liquid market or a number of large blockholders? This column argues in favour of liquidity. Evidence suggests that policymakers should not reduce stock liquidity through greater regulation. While the idea that liquidity encourages short-term trading – rather than long-term governance – sounds intuitive, deeper analysis shows that liquidity is beneficial because it encourages large shareholders to form in the first place, and allows shareholders to punish underperforming firms through selling their stake.
Lukas Menkhoff, Lucio Sarno , Maik Schmeling, Andreas Schrimpf, 31 March 2012
Momentum trading – buying past winners and selling past losers – is a popular trading strategy in many assets. In foreign exchange high returns to momentum trading have fuelled concerns that it is little more than destabilising speculation. This column argues that, for better or worse, such strategies are likely to continue.
Thomas Meyer, 19 August 2011
Against the backdrop of noise about the damage financial markets can cause, this column focuses on the positives. It presents an analysis of innovation at 1,200 firms worldwide and finds that financial markets usually award a premium to innovative firms, though this premium differs across countries. Economies with more active financial markets have higher innovation – which may be a driver of faster productivity growth.