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Agency Problem

In: Business and Management

Submitted By alexchin91
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Agency Problems and Dividend Policies Around the World
Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer and Robert W. Vishny* January 1999

Abstract This paper outlines and tests two agency models of dividends. According to the “outcome” model, dividends are the result of effective pressure by minority shareholders to force corporate insiders to disgorge cash. According to the “substitute” model, insiders interested in issuing equity in the future choose to pay dividends to establish a reputation for decent treatment of minority shareholders. The first model predicts that stronger minority shareholder rights should be associated with higher dividend payouts; the second model predicts the opposite. Tests on a cross-section of 4,000 companies from 33 countries with different levels of minority shareholder rights support the outcome agency model of dividends.

The authors are from Harvard University, Harvard University, Harvard University and University of Chicago, respectively. They are grateful to Alexander Aganin for excellent research assistance, and to Lucian Bebchuk, Mihir Desai, Edward Glaeser, Denis Gromb, Oliver Hart, James Hines, Kose John, James Poterba, Roberta Romano, Raghu Rajan, Lemma Senbet, René Stulz, Daniel Wolfenzohn, Luigi Zingales, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments.

2 The so-called dividend puzzle (Black 1976) has preoccupied the attention of financial economists at least since Modigliani and Miller’s (1958, 1961) seminal work. This work established that, in a frictionless world, when the investment policy of a firm is held constant, its dividend payout policy has no consequences for shareholder wealth. Higher dividend payouts lead to lower retained earnings and capital gains, and vice versa, leaving total wealth of the shareholders unchanged. Contrary to this prediction, however, corporations follow extremely...

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