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Information Production and Capital Allocation: Decentralized vs. Hierarchical Firms

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  • Jeremy C. Stein

Abstract

This paper assesses different organizational forms in terms of their ability to generate information about investment projects and allocate capital to these projects efficiently. A decentralized approach with small, single-manager firms is most likely to be attractive when information about individual projects is soft' and cannot be credibly transmitted. Moreover, holding fixed firm size, soft information also favors flatter organizations with fewer layers of management. In contrast, large hierarchical firms with multiple layers of management are at a comparative advantage when information can be costlessly hardened' and passed along within the hierarchy. As a concrete application of the theory, the paper discusses the consequences of consolidation in the banking industry. It has been documented that when large banks acquire small banks, there is a pronounced decline in lending to small businesses. To the extent that small-business lending relies heavily on soft information, this is exactly what the theory would lead one to expect.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremy C. Stein, 2000. "Information Production and Capital Allocation: Decentralized vs. Hierarchical Firms," NBER Working Papers 7705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7705 Note: CF
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    Cited by:

    1. Milton Harris & Artur Raviv, 2002. "Organization Design," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(7), pages 852-865, July.
    2. Axel Gautier & Florian Heider, 2001. "What Do Internal Capital Markets Do? Redistribution vs. Incentives," FMG Discussion Papers dp386, Financial Markets Group.
    3. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 2001. "The Influence of the Financial Revolution on the Nature of Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 206-211, May.
    4. Baccara, Mariagiovanna & Razin, Ronny, 2004. "Curb Your Innovation: Corporate Conservatism in the Presence of Imperfect Intellectual Property Rights," CEPR Discussion Papers 4466, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Berger, Allen N. & Miller, Nathan H. & Petersen, Mitchell A. & Rajan, Raghuram G. & Stein, Jeremy C., 2005. "Does function follow organizational form? Evidence from the lending practices of large and small banks," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 237-269, May.
    6. Brusco, Sandro & Panunzi, Fausto, 2005. "Reallocation of corporate resources and managerial incentives in internal capital markets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 659-681, April.
    7. Hans Degryse & Steven Ongena, 2005. "Distance, Lending Relationships, and Competition," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(1), pages 231-266, February.
    8. Berger, Allen N. & Klapper, Leora F. & Martinez Peria, Maria Soledad & Zaidi, Rida, 2008. "Bank ownership type and banking relationships," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 37-62, January.
    9. Fabrice Hervé, 2006. "Famille de fonds de pension, performance et persistance de la performance," Working Papers CREGO 1060903, Université de Bourgogne - CREGO EA7317 Centre de recherches en gestion des organisations.
    10. Axel Gautier & Florian Heider, 2002. "The Benefit and Cost of Winner Picking: Redistribution Vs Incentives," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse31_2002, University of Bonn, Germany.
    11. Berger, Allen N. & DeYoung, Robert, 2006. "Technological Progress and the Geographic Expansion of the Banking Industry," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 38(6), pages 1483-1513, September.
    12. Roman Inderst & Holger M. Mueller & Felix Münnich, 2006. "Financing a Portfolio of Projects," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 20(4), pages 1289-1325.
    13. O. Emre Ergungor, 2002. "Community banks as small business lenders: the tough road ahead," Working Paper 0203, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    14. Ricardo Alonso & Wouter Dessein & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "When Does Coordination Require Centralization?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 145-179, March.
    15. Wernerfelt, Birger, 2003. "Indirect Adjustment-Costs Under Alternative Coordination Regimes," Working papers 4336-01, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    16. Raghuram G. Rajan & Julie Wulf, 2006. "The Flattening Firm: Evidence from Panel Data on the Changing Nature of Corporate Hierarchies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 759-773, November.
    17. Mitchell A. Petersen & Raghuram G. Rajan, 2002. "Does Distance Still Matter? The Information Revolution in Small Business Lending," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(6), pages 2533-2570, December.
    18. Lizbeth Navas-Alemán & Carlo Pietrobelli & Marco Kamiya, 2012. "Inter-Firm Linkages and Finance in Value Chains," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4067, Inter-American Development Bank.
    19. Grunert, Jens & Norden, Lars & Weber, Martin, 2005. "The role of non-financial factors in internal credit ratings," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 509-531, February.
    20. Jose Maria Liberti, 2004. "Initiative, Incentives and Soft Information. How Does Delegation Impact The Role of Bank Relationship Managers?," Finance 0404023, EconWPA.
    21. Corgnet Bruce & Angela Sutan & Arvin Aashta, 2006. "The power of words in financial markets: soft versus hard communication,a strategy method experiment," Labsi Experimental Economics Laboratory University of Siena 006, University of Siena.

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    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies

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