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Debt and Seniority: An Analysis of the Role of Hard Claims in Constraining Management

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  • Oliver Hart
  • John Moore

Abstract

We argue that long-term debt has a role in controlling management's ability to finance future investments. A company with high (widely-held) debt will find it hard to raise capital, since new security holders will have low priority relative to existing creditors. Conversely for a company with low debt. We show there is an optimal debt-equity ratio and mix of senior and junior debt if management undertakes unprofitable as well as profitable investments. We derive conditions under which equity and a single class of senior long-term debt work as well as more complex contracts for controlling investment behavior.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4886.

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Date of creation: Oct 1994
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Publication status: published as American Economic Review, vol. 85, no. 3, pp. 567-585, (June 1995).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4886

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  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1998. "Default And Renegotiation: A Dynamic Model Of Debt," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 1-41, February.
  2. Aghion, P. & Hart, O. & Moore, J., 1992. "The Economics of Bankruptcy Reform," Working papers 92-11, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Robert Gertner & David Scharfstein, 1991. "A Theory of Workouts and the Effects of Reorganization Law," NBER Technical Working Papers 0103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 1991. " The Theory of Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(1), pages 297-355, March.
  5. Philip H. Dybvig & Jaime F. Zender, 1988. "Capital Structure and dividend Irrelevance with Asymmetric Information," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 878, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. Hayne E. Leland and David H. Pyle., 1976. "Informational Asymmetries, Financial Structure, and Financial Intermediation," Research Program in Finance Working Papers 41, University of California at Berkeley.
  7. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
  8. Berkovitch, Elazar & Kim, E Han, 1990. " Financial Contracting and Leverage Induced Over- and Under-Investment Incentives," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(3), pages 765-94, July.
  9. Smith, Clifford Jr. & Warner, Jerold B., 1979. "On financial contracting : An analysis of bond covenants," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 117-161, June.
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