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Two essays on payout policy
The first essay examines the impact of insider trading law enforcement on dividend payout policy. We posit and confirm that firms use dividend payouts to mitigate agency costs caused by gaps in country-level investor protection. We find that first-time enforcement of insider trading laws leads to a lower likelihood of paying dividends, lower dividend amounts, lower dividend smoothing and target payout ratios. We also show that market value of dividends declines significantly following the enforcement of insider trading laws. These results suggest that dividends serve as a substitute bonding mechanism through which managers establish a reputation for the fair treatment of minority shareholders when insider trading is not restricted. Firms mitigate the shortcomings of a weak institutional environment by committing to higher and more consistent payout policies. The second essay investigates the interaction among dividend smoothing, equity value and agency costs. Using a comprehensive cross-country sample from 21 countries, we show that market puts a premium on smooth dividends and dividend smoothing increases with agency costs of equity. Most importantly, we find that the premium for smooth dividends is decreasing in shareholder rights, suggesting that when agency costs are small the market puts a low premium on smooth dividends. The bonding framework of dividend smoothing might also shed some light on why smoothing in the US has increased over time. Consistent with our findings, we argue that the necessity to smooth dividends has increased over time due to increasing repurchase-for-dividend substitution that is previously documented in Grullon and Michaely (2002). Further analyses show that on average $1 paid out through dividends contributes to equity value by about 40% more than $1 paid out in repurchases using the most conservative model. Put differently, in order not to reduce the value of equity, firms need to substitute $1.4 in repurchases for $1 decrease in dividends. To manage the enormous payout burden of dividend-repurchase substitution and to maximize equity value, managers have been increasingly compelled to make dividends smoother. Consistently, we show that firms that pay smoother dividends substitute dividends for repurchases at 23% faster rate than the firms with less smooth dividends. Overall, these results support the view that dividend smoothing is a bonding mechanism used to undo the agency cost discount on equity valuation.
Tresl, Jiri, "Two essays on payout policy" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3558872.