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A Theory of Corporate Financial Structure Based on the Seniority of Claims

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  • Oliver Hart
  • John Moore

Abstract

We develop a theory of optimal capital structure based on the idea that debt and equity differ in their priority status relative to future corporate cash pants. A company with high (dispersed) debt will find it hard to raise new capital since new security-holders will have low priority relative to existing senior creditors. Conversely for a company with low debt. We show that there is an optimal debt-equity ratio and mix of senior and junior debt for a corporation whose management may undertake unprofitable as well as profitable investments. Among other things, our theory can explain the observation that profitable firms have low debt. In addition, it predicts that (long-term) debt will be high if new investment is risky and on average profitable, or if assets in place are risky an new investment is on average unprofitable.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series with number /1990/217.

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Date of creation: 1990
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stitep:/1990/217

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Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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References

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  1. David M. Cutler & Lawrence H. Summers, 1987. "The Costs of Conflict Resolution and Financial Distress: Evidence from the Texaco-Pennzoil Litigation," NBER Working Papers 2418, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gilson, Stuart C. & John, Kose & Lang, Larry H. P., 1990. "Troubled debt restructurings*1: An empirical study of private reorganization of firms in default," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 315-353, October.
  3. Myers, Stewart C., 1977. "Determinants of corporate borrowing," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 147-175, November.
  4. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1997. "Default and Renegotiation: A Dynamic Model of Debt," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series /1997/321, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  5. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
  6. Stephen A. Ross, 1977. "The Determination of Financial Structure: The Incentive-Signalling Approach," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 8(1), pages 23-40, Spring.
  7. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 323-29, May.
  8. Franklin Allen, Douglas Gale, 1988. "Optimal Security Design," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 1(3), pages 229-263.
  9. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicolás S., 1945-, 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Working papers 1523-84., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  10. Leland, Hayne E & Pyle, David H, 1977. "Informational Asymmetries, Financial Structure, and Financial Intermediation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 371-87, May.
  11. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
  12. Stewart C. Myers & Nicholas S. Majluf, 1984. "Corporate Financing and Investment Decisions When Firms Have InformationThat Investors Do Not Have," NBER Working Papers 1396, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicholas S., 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 187-221, June.
  14. Warner, Jerold B, 1977. "Bankruptcy Costs: Some Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 337-47, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Daron Acemoglu & Miles Gietzmann, 1998. "Auditor independence, incomplete contracts and the role of legal liability," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(3), pages 355-375.
  2. Larry Lang & Annette Poulsen & Rene M. Stulz, 1994. "Asset Sales, Firm Performance, and the Agency Costs of Managerial Discretion," NBER Working Papers 4654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Cronqvist, Henrik & Heyman, Fredrik & Nilsson, Mattias & Svaleryd, Helena & Vlachos, Jonas, 2007. "Do Entrenched Managers Pay Their Workers More?," Working Paper Series 2007-7, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
  4. Heather M. Hulburt & Frederick C. Scherr, 2003. "Determinants of the collateralization of credit by small firms," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(6-7), pages 483-501.
  5. Kooyul Jung & Yong-Cheol Kim & Rene M. Stulz, 1994. "Investment Opportunities, Managerial Decisions, and the Security Issue Decision," NBER Working Papers 4907, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Lucian Arye Bebchuk & Howard F. Chang, 1991. "Bargaining and the Division of Value in Corporate Reorganization," NBER Technical Working Papers 0097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Tahvanainen, Antti-Jussi, 2003. "The Capital Structure of Finnish Biotechnology SMEs - An empirical analysisi," Discussion Papers 864, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.

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