IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

The mystery of zero-leverage firms

  • Strebulaev, Ilya A.
  • Yang, Baozhong
Registered author(s):

    We present the puzzling evidence that, from 1962 to 2009, an average 10.2% of large public nonfinancial US firms have zero debt and almost 22% have less than 5% book leverage ratio. Zero-leverage behavior is a persistent phenomenon. Dividend-paying zero-leverage firms pay substantially higher dividends, are more profitable, pay higher taxes, issue less equity, and have higher cash balances than control firms chosen by industry and size. Firms with higher Chief Executive Officer (CEO) ownership and longer CEO tenure are more likely to have zero debt, especially if boards are smaller and less independent. Family firms are also more likely to be zero-levered.

    If 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.

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304405X13000317
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Financial Economics.

    Volume (Year): 109 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 1-23

    as
    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:109:y:2013:i:1:p:1-23
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505576

    References listed on IDEAS
    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.:

    as in new window
    1. Eisenberg, Theodore & Sundgren, Stefan & Wells, Martin T., 1998. "Larger board size and decreasing firm value in small firms," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 35-54, April.
    2. Cheng, Shijun, 2008. "Board size and the variability of corporate performance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 157-176, January.
    3. Hayne E. Leland and Klaus Bjerre Toft., 1995. "Optimal Capital Structure, Endogenous Bankruptcy, and the Term Structure of Credit Spreads," Research Program in Finance Working Papers RPF-259, University of California at Berkeley.
    4. Christopher Hennessy & Toni Whited, 2004. "Debt Dynamics," 2004 Meeting Papers 592, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Dirk Hackbarth & David C. Mauer, 2012. "Optimal Priority Structure, Capital Structure, and Investment," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(3), pages 747-796.
    6. Erwan Morellec, 2004. "Can Managerial Discretion Explain Observed Leverage Ratios?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 17(1), pages 257-294.
    7. Andrea Gamba & Alexander J. Triantis, 2007. "The Value of Financial Flexibility," Working Papers wpn07-02, Warwick Business School, Finance Group.
    8. Marianne Bertrand & Antoinette Schoar, 2006. "The Role of Family in Family Firms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 73-96, Spring.
    9. Andrea Eisfeldt & Adriano Rampini, 2006. "Leasing, Ability to Repossess, and Debt Capacity," 2006 Meeting Papers 461, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. C. Fritz Foley & Jay C. Hartzell & Sheridan Titman & Garry Twite, 2006. "Why do firms hold so much cash? A tax-based explanation," NBER Working Papers 12649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Philip E. Berger & Eli Ofek & David Yermack, 1996. "Managerial Entrenchment and Capital Structure Decisions," New York University, Leonard N. Stern School Finance Department Working Paper Seires 96-14, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business-.
    12. Fahlenbrach, Rüdiger, 2009. "Founder-CEOs, Investment Decisions, and Stock Market Performance," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(02), pages 439-466, April.
    13. Graham, John R. & Tucker, Alan L., 2006. "Tax shelters and corporate debt policy," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 563-594, September.
    14. John R. Graham & Mark T. Leary, 2011. "A Review of Empirical Capital Structure Research and Directions for the Future," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 3(1), pages 309-345, December.
    15. Villalonga, Belen & Amit, Raphael, 2006. "How do family ownership, control and management affect firm value?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 385-417, May.
    16. Stewart C. Myers, 1984. "Capital Structure Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 1393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Leland, Hayne E, 1994. " Corporate Debt Value, Bond Covenants, and Optimal Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1213-52, September.
    18. Michael R. Roberts & Mark T. Leary, 2004. "Do Firms Rebalance Their Capital Structures?," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 52, Econometric Society.
    19. Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2004. "Do Tests of Capital Structure Theory Mean What They Say?," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 646, Econometric Society.
    20. Lemmon, Michael L. & Zender, Jaime F., 2010. "Debt Capacity and Tests of Capital Structure Theories," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(05), pages 1161-1187, October.
    21. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Michael S. Weisbach, 1996. "Endogenously Chosen Boards of Directors and Their Monitoring of the CEO," Microeconomics 9602001, EconWPA, revised 09 Oct 1996.
    22. Francisco Pérez-González, 2006. "Inherited Control and Firm Performance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1559-1588, December.
    23. Paul Gompers & Joy Ishii & Andrew Metrick, 2003. "Corporate Governance And Equity Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 107-155, February.
    24. Lewellen, Katharina, 2006. "Financing decisions when managers are risk averse," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 551-589, December.
    25. Myers, Stewart C., 1984. "Capital structure puzzle," Working papers 1548-84., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    26. Hayne E. Leland., 1998. "Agency Costs, Risk Management, and Capital Structure," Research Program in Finance Working Papers RPF-278, University of California at Berkeley.
    27. John R. Graham & Michael L. Lemmon & James S. Schallheim, 1998. "Debt, Leases, Taxes, and the Endogeneity of Corporate Tax Status," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(1), pages 131-162, 02.
    28. Anil Shivdasani & Irina Stefanescu, 2010. "How Do Pensions Affect Corporate Capital Structure Decisions?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(3), pages 1287-1323, March.
    29. Titman, Sheridan & Wei, K. C. John & Xie, Feixue, 2004. "Capital Investments and Stock Returns," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(04), pages 677-700, December.
    30. Lewis, Craig M. & Schallheim, James S., 1992. "Are Debt and Leases Substitutes?," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(04), pages 497-511, December.
    31. Yermack, David, 1996. "Higher market valuation of companies with a small board of directors," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 185-211, February.
    32. John R. Graham & Mark H. Lang & Douglas A. Shackelford, 2002. "Employee Stock Options, Corporate Taxes and Debt Policy," NBER Working Papers 9289, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    33. Anderson, Ronald C. & Duru, Augustine & Reeb, David M., 2009. "Founders, heirs, and corporate opacity in the United States," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(2), pages 205-222, May.
    34. Coles, Jeffrey L. & Daniel, Naveen D. & Naveen, Lalitha, 2006. "Managerial incentives and risk-taking," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 431-468, February.
    35. Coles, Jeffrey L. & Daniel, Naveen D. & Naveen, Lalitha, 2008. "Boards: Does one size fit all," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 329-356, February.
    36. Zwiebel, Jeffrey, 1996. "Dynamic Capital Structure under Managerial Entrenchment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1197-1215, December.
    37. Ronald C. Anderson & David M. Reeb, 2003. "Founding-Family Ownership and Firm Performance: Evidence from the S&P 500," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(3), pages 1301-1327, 06.
    38. Myers, Stewart C, 1984. " The Capital Structure Puzzle," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(3), pages 575-92, July.
    39. Eugene F. Fama & Kenneth R. French, . "Testing Tradeoff and Pecking Order Predictions about Dividends and Debt.”," CRSP working papers 506, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
    40. Leary, Mark T. & Roberts, Michael R., 2010. "The pecking order, debt capacity, and information asymmetry," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(3), pages 332-355, March.
    41. John R. Graham, 2000. "How Big Are the Tax Benefits of Debt?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(5), pages 1901-1941, October.
    42. John R. Graham, 2003. "Taxes and Corporate Finance: A Review," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 16(4), pages 1075-1129.
    43. Adriano A. Rampini & S. Viswanathan, 2010. "Collateral, Risk Management, and the Distribution of Debt Capacity," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(6), pages 2293-2322, December.
    44. DeAngelo, Harry & Masulis, Ronald W., 1980. "Optimal capital structure under corporate and personal taxation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 3-29, March.
    45. Becker, Gary S, 1981. "Altruism in the Family and Selfishness in the Market Place," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(189), pages 1-15, February.
    46. Hackbarth, Dirk, 2008. "Managerial Traits and Capital Structure Decisions," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(04), pages 843-881, December.
    47. Acharya, Viral V & Almeida, Heitor & Campello, Murillo, 2005. "Is Cash Negative Debt? A Hedging Perspective on Corporate Financial Policies," CEPR Discussion Papers 4886, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    48. Hovakimian, Armen & Opler, Tim & Titman, Sheridan, 2001. "The Debt-Equity Choice," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(01), pages 1-24, March.
    49. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1994. "What Do We Know About Capital Structure? Some Evidence from International Data," NBER Working Papers 4875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    50. Ronald C. Anderson & David M. Reeb & Wanli Zhao, 2012. "Family‐Controlled Firms and Informed Trading: Evidence from Short Sales," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(1), pages 351-386, 02.
    51. Goldstein, Robert & Ju, Nengjiu & Leland, Hayne, 2001. "An EBIT-Based Model of Dynamic Capital Structure," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74(4), pages 483-512, October.
    52. Weisbach, Michael S., 1988. "Outside directors and CEO turnover," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 431-460, January.
    53. Jules H. van Binsbergen & John Graham & Jie Yang, 2010. "The Cost of Debt," NBER Working Papers 16023, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    54. Lemmon, Michael & Roberts, Michael R., 2010. "The Response of Corporate Financing and Investment to Changes in the Supply of Credit," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(03), pages 555-587, June.
    55. Dang, Viet Anh, 2013. "An empirical analysis of zero-leverage firms: New evidence from the UK," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 189-202.
    56. Ang, James & Peterson, Pamela P, 1984. " The Leasing Puzzle," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1055-65, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:109:y:2013:i:1:p:1-23. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.