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

  • Hart, Oliver
  • Moore, John

The authors argue that long-term debt has a role in controlling management's ability to finance future investments. Companies 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 companies with low debt. The authors show that there is an optimal debt-equity ratio and mix of senior and junior debt if management undertakes unprofitable as well as profitable investments. They 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. Copyright 1995 by American Economic Association.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 85 (1995)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 567-85

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:85:y:1995:i:3:p:567-85
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  1. Hart, O. & Moore, J., 1989. "Default And Renegotiation: A Dynamic Model Of Debt," Working papers 520, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  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. 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.
  6. Aghion, Philippe & Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1992. "The Economics of Bankruptcy Reform," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(3), pages 523-46, October.
  7. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
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