Dividend Policy, Agency Costs, and Earned Equity
AbstractWhy do firms pay dividends? If they didn't their asset and capital structures would eventually become untenable as the earnings of successful firms outstrip their investment opportunities. Had they not paid dividends, the 25 largest long-standing 2002 dividend payers would have cash holdings of $1.8 trillion (51% of total assets), up from $160 billion (6% of assets), and $1.2 trillion in excess of their collective $600 billion in long-term debt. Their dividend payments prevented significant agency problems since the retention of earnings would have given managers command over an additional $1.6 trillion without access to better investment opportunities and with no additional monitoring. This logic suggests that firms with relatively high amounts of earned equity (retained earnings) are especially likely to pay dividends. Consistent with this view, the fraction of publicly traded industrial firms that pays dividends is high when the ratio of earned equity to total equity (total assets) is high, and falls with declines in this ratio, becoming near zero when a firm has little or no earned equity. We observe a highly significant relation between the decision to pay dividends and the ratio of earned equity to total equity or total assets,controlling for firm size, profitability, growth, leverage, cash balances, and dividend history. In our regressions, earned equity has an economically more important impact than does profitability or growth. Our evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that firms pay dividends to mitigate agency problems.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10599.
Date of creation: Jul 2004
Date of revision:
Note: CF AP
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Other versions of this item:
- G35 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Payout Policy
- G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ACC-2004-07-04 (Accounting & Auditing)
- NEP-ALL-2004-07-04 (All new papers)
- NEP-CFN-2004-07-04 (Corporate Finance)
- NEP-FIN-2004-07-04 (Finance)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Feldstein, Martin & Green, Jerry, 1983.
"Why Do Companies Pay Dividends?,"
3204679, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 2001.
"Disappearing dividends: changing firm characteristics or lower propensity to pay?,"
Journal of Financial Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 3-43, April.
- Eugene F. Fama & Kenneth R. French, 2001. "Disappearing Dividends: Changing Firm Characteristics Or Lower Propensity To Pay?," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 14(1), pages 67-79.
- Eugene F. Fama & Kenneth R. French, . "Disappearing Dividends: Changing Firm Characteristics or Lower Propensity to Pay?."," CRSP working papers 509, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
- Tim Opler & Lee Pinkowitz & Rene Stulz & Rohan Williamson, 1997.
"The Determinants and Implications of Corporate Cash Holdings,"
NBER Working Papers
6234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Opler, Tim & Pinkowitz, Lee & Stulz, Rene & Williamson, Rohan, 1999. "The determinants and implications of corporate cash holdings," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 3-46, April.
- DeAngelo, Harry & DeAngelo, Linda & Skinner, Douglas J., 2004. "Are dividends disappearing? Dividend concentration and the consolidation of earnings," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 425-456, June.
- 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.
- Stulz, ReneM., 1990. "Managerial discretion and optimal financing policies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 3-27, July.
- Benartzi, Shlomo & Michaely, Roni & Thaler, Richard H, 1997.
" Do Changes in Dividends Signal the Future or the Past?,"
Journal of Finance,
American Finance Association, vol. 52(3), pages 1007-34, July.
- Shlomo Benartzi & Roni Michaely & Richard Thaler, . "Do Changes in Dividends Signal the Future or the Past?," CRSP working papers 327, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
- Shlomo Benartzi & Roni Michaely & Richard Thaler, 1997. "Do Changes in Dividends Signal the Future or the Past?," CRSP working papers 455, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gustavo Grullon & Roni Michaely & Bhaskaran Swaminathan, 2002. "Are Dividend Changes a Sign of Firm Maturity?," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75(3), pages 387-424, July.
- 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.
- Sharma, Vineeta, 2011. "Independent directors and the propensity to pay dividends," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 1001-1015, September.
- Richard W. Kopcke, 2005. "The taxation of equity, dividends, and stock prices," Public Policy Discussion Paper 05-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.