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Do Firms Engage in Risk-Shifting? Empirical Evidence


  • Erik P. Gilje


I empirically test whether firms engage in risk-shifting. Contrary to what risk-shifting theory predicts, I find that firms reduce investment risk when they approach financial distress. To identify the effect of distress on risk-taking, I use a natural experiment with exogenous changes to leverage. Risk reduction is most prevalent among firms that have shorter maturity debt, bank debt, and tighter bank loan financial covenants. These findings suggest that debt composition and financial covenants serve as important mechanisms to mitigate debt-equity agency conflicts, such as risk-shifting, that are not explicitly contracted on.Received January 8, 2015; accepted May 27, 2016 by Editor David Denis.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik P. Gilje, 2016. "Do Firms Engage in Risk-Shifting? Empirical Evidence," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 29(11), pages 2925-2954.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:rfinst:v:29:y:2016:i:11:p:2925-2954.

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    Cited by:

    1. Goncharenko, Roman & Ongena, Steven & Rauf, Asad, 2018. "The Agency of CoCos: Why Contingent Convertible Bonds Aren't for Everyone," CEPR Discussion Papers 13344, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Ferriani, Fabrizio & Natoli, Filippo & Veronese, Giovanni & Zeni, Federica, 2018. "Futures risk premia in the era of shale oil," MPRA Paper 89097, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Ferriani, Fabrizio & Veronese, Giovanni, 2018. "U.S. shale producers: a case of dynamic risk management?," MPRA Paper 88279, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Erwan Morellec & Boris Nikolov & Norman Schürhoff, 2018. "Agency Conflicts around the World," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 31(11), pages 4232-4287.
    5. Divya Kirti, 2017. "When Gambling for Resurrection is Too Risky," IMF Working Papers 17/180, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Shan Ge & Michael S. Weisbach, 2019. "The Role of Financial Conditions in Portfolio Choices: The Case of Insurers," NBER Working Papers 25677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Li, Keming & Lockwood, Jimmy & Miao, Hong, 2017. "Risk-shifting, equity risk, and the distress puzzle," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 275-288.
    8. Felix Feng, 2018. "Dynamic Compensation under Uncertainty Shocks and Limited Commitment," 2018 Meeting Papers 159, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Goncharenko, Roman & Ongena, Steven & Rauf, Asad, 2017. "The agency of CoCo: Why do banks issue contingent convertible bonds?," CFS Working Paper Series 586, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation


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