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Dividend Policy, Agency Costs, and Earned Equity

Author

Listed:
  • DeAngelo, Harry

    (U of Southern California)

  • DeAngelo, Linda
  • Stulz, Rene M.

    (Ohio State U)

Abstract

Why do firms pay dividends? If they didn’t their asset and capital structures would eventually become untenable as the earnings of successful firms outstrip their investment opportunities. Had they not paid dividends, the 25 largest long-standing 2002 dividend payers would have cash holdings of $1.8 trillion (51% of total assets), up from $160 billion (6% of assets), and $1.2 trillion in excess of their collective $600 billion in long-term debt. Their dividend payments prevented significant agency problems since the retention of earnings would have given managers command over an additional $1.6 trillion without access to better investment opportunities and with no additional monitoring. This logic suggests that firms with relatively high amounts of earned equity (retained earnings) are especially likely to pay dividends. Consistent with this view, the fraction of publicly traded industrial firms that pays dividends is high when the ratio of earned equity to total equity (total assets) is high, and falls with declines in this ratio, becoming near zero when a firm has little or no earned equity. We observe a highly significant relation between the decision to pay dividends and the ratio of earned equity to total equity or total assets, controlling for firm size, profitability, growth, leverage, cash balances, and dividend history. In our regressions, earned equity has an economically more important impact than does profitability or growth. Our evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that firms pay dividends to mitigate agency problems.

Suggested Citation

  • DeAngelo, Harry & DeAngelo, Linda & Stulz, Rene M., 2004. "Dividend Policy, Agency Costs, and Earned Equity," Working Paper Series 2004-10, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:ohidic:2004-10
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    File URL: http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/fin/dice/papers/2004/2004-10.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. María Belén Lozano, 2012. "Analysing the effect of excess cash accumulation on financial decisions," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(21), pages 2687-2698, July.
    2. Sharma, Vineeta, 2011. "Independent directors and the propensity to pay dividends," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 1001-1015, September.
    3. Jan Bena & Jan Hanousek, 2008. "Rent Extraction by Large Shareholders: Evidence Using Dividend Policy in the Czech Republic," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 58(03-04), pages 106-130, May.
    4. Anneleen Michiels & Wim Voordeckers & Nadine Lybaert & Tensie Steijvers, 2015. "Dividends and family governance practices in private family firms," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 44(2), pages 299-314, February.
    5. Richard W. Kopcke, 2005. "The taxation of equity, dividends, and stock prices," Public Policy Discussion Paper 05-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    6. Mª Belén Lozano García, 2011. "Analyzing the Effect of Excess Cash Accumulation on Financial Decisions," Post-Print hal-00704672, HAL.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G35 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Payout Policy
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill

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