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Leveraging the Underinvestment Problem: How High Debt and Management Shareholdings Solve the Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow

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  • Garvey, Gerald T
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    It is argued that leveraged buyouts (LBOs) provide managers with a powerful incentive to release excess cash rather than invest in negative net present value projects. This incentive is attributed to the large debt obligations associated with "junk" bond financing and to an increase in the shareholdings of top management. In this paper the author explores the conditions under which leverage and management shareholdings complement one another in resolving the agency costs of free cash flow and would therefore optimally be used "together" as in an LBO. Complementarity is shown to obtain under plausible conditions, essentially because increased leverage reduces equityholders' share of investment returns. Increased management shareholdings then leverage this underinvestment effect. His analysis also helps explain why top managers who participate in an LBO receive a highly leveraged equity claim rather than a share of the "strip" that is generally provided to outside investors.

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    Article provided by Southern Finance Association & Southwestern Finance Association in its journal Journal of Financial Research.

    Volume (Year): 15 (1992)
    Issue (Month): 2 (Summer)
    Pages: 149-166

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:jfnres:v:15:y:1992:i:2:p:149-66
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