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Corporate Financial Policies With Overconfident Managers


  • Ulrike Malmendier
  • Geoffrey Tate
  • Jonathan Yan


Many financing choices of US corporations remain puzzling even after accounting for standard determinants such as taxes, bankruptcy costs, and asymmetric information. We propose that managerial beliefs help to explain the remaining variation across and within firms, including variation in debt conservatism and in pecking-order behavior. Managers who believe that their company is undervalued view external financing as overpriced, especially equity financing. As a result, they display pecking-order preferences for internal financing over debt and for debt over equity. They may also exhibit debt conservatism: While they prefer debt to equity, they still underutilize debt relative to its tax benefits. We test these hypotheses empirically, using late option exercise by the CEO as a measure of overconfidence. We find that, conditional on accessing public markets, CEOs who personally overinvest in their companies are significantly less likely to issue equity. They raise 33 cents more debt to cover an additional dollar of financing deficit than their peers. Moreover, the frequency with which they access any external finance (debt or equity) is significantly lower, resulting in debt conservatism. The results replicate when identifying managerial overconfidence based on press portrayal as confident or optimistic. We conclude that managerial overconfidence helps to explain variation in corporate financial policies.

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  • Ulrike Malmendier & Geoffrey Tate & Jonathan Yan, 2007. "Corporate Financial Policies With Overconfident Managers," NBER Working Papers 13570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13570
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Elsas, Ralf & Florysiak, David, 2008. "Empirical Capital Structure Research: New Ideas, Recent Evidence, and Methodological Issues," Discussion Papers in Business Administration 4743, University of Munich, Munich School of Management.
    2. Ezzeddine Ben Mohamed & Baccar Ame & Abdelfatteh Bouri, 2013. "Investment Cash Flow Sensitivity and Managerial Optimism: A Literature Review via the Classification Scheme Technique," The Review of Finance and Banking, Academia de Studii Economice din Bucuresti, Romania / Facultatea de Finante, Asigurari, Banci si Burse de Valori / Catedra de Finante, vol. 5(1), pages 007-026, June.
    3. Sandra Ludwig & Julia Nafziger, 2011. "Beliefs about overconfidence," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 70(4), pages 475-500, April.
    4. Sandra Ludwig & Julia Nafziger, 2007. "Do You Know That I Am Biased? An Experiment," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse11_2007, University of Bonn, Germany.
    5. Campbell, T. Colin & Gallmeyer, Michael & Johnson, Shane A. & Rutherford, Jessica & Stanley, Brooke W., 2011. "CEO optimism and forced turnover," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 695-712, September.
    6. Peter Koudijs & Joachim Voth, 2013. "Leverage and beliefs: Personal experience and risk taking in margin lending," Economics Working Papers 1343, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    7. Jijun Niu, 2010. "The Effect of Overconfidence on the Sensitivity of CEO Wealth to Equity Risk," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 38(1), pages 23-39, August.
    8. Sabri Boubaker & Taher Hamza, 2014. "Does managerial overconfidence matter in explaining debt financing policy?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 34(4), pages 2324-2339.
    9. Kamal Anouar, 2013. "L'Exces De Confiance Des Dirigeants Et La Decision De Distribution De Dividendes : Une Analyse Lexicale," Working Papers halshs-00797635, HAL.
    10. AZOUZI Mohamed Ali & JARBOUI Anis, 2013. "Why CEO Emotional Biases Affect Firm Assets Specificity Choice Bayesian Network Method: The Evidence from Tunisia," Asian Journal of Empirical Research, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 3(3), pages 329-350, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D53 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Financial Markets
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • 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
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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