Melbourne Accounting Research Seminar - Dr Jeff Coulton

Melbourne Accounting Research Seminar

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Martin Weisner

martin.weisner@unimelb.edu.au

T: +61 3 8344 6556

Dr Jeff Coulton from the University of New South Wales will present a MARS seminar.

Topic: Litigation Risk and Cost Behavior: Evidence from Derivative Lawsuits

Abstract: This study explores whether managers’ personal litigation risk impacts managerial empire building through the lens of their firms’ cost behavior. Exploiting the staggered adoption of universal demand (UD) laws at the state-level in the U.S., we find a significant decrease in Selling, General & Administrative (SG&A) cost elasticity and a significant increase in SG&A cost asymmetry after the exogenous decrease in managers’ personal litigation risk. These associations are not driven by the pre-adoption trend and are robust to a variety of changes in sample composition. In addition, we find that the effect of UD laws is more pronounced in firms: (1) with lower future value creation potential of SG&A expenditure; (2) with weaker corporate governance; (3) operating in less competitive product markets; (4) with higher information asymmetry; and (5) with lower ex ante litigation risk. Our findings highlight the importance of shareholders’ litigation rights in curbing managerial empire building and add to the agency explanation for cost behavior.

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