Essays on banking and corporate investment
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This dissertation examines issues in banking and the financing of corporate investment. The first chapter investigates the impact of changes in a bank's health on the investment behavior of its current borrowers for a panel of U.S. firms. I find that, after controlling for aggregate credit availability and the condition of outside banks, firms reduce their investment when the health of their primary bank deteriorates. This effect is only present while the firm maintains a borrowing relationship with the bank and does not appear to be driven by changes in region or industry specific investment opportunities. The health of the existing lender is more important for younger, more opaque firms with greater reliance on their primary bank. I also find that this effect became less significant after the early 1990s, suggesting that bank dependence appears to diminish during long periods of stability. However, results from the recent financial crisis show that healthy banking relationships remain very important to U.S. firm investment. The second chapter, adapted from joint work with Richard Lowery, examines the determinants of covenant structure in private debt contracts. While previous studies have demonstrated a relationship between firm characteristics and the overall strictness of loan contracts, few studies have examined why covenants are written on a range of accounting variables and what determines their selective use. Using a simple model of firm investment where firms face uncertain cash flows and investment opportunities, this essay characterizes the conditions under which it is optimal for a debt contract to specify a restriction on investment or to specify a minimum cash flow realization. Consistent with this model, empirical evidence demonstrates that the application of covenants based on these variables is not necessarily monotonic in firm risk. While the financially riskiest firms tend to employ capital expenditure covenants, cash flow and net worth covenants are most common among moderately risky firms with greater profitability and firms with stronger baking relationships. The results also highlight the importance of debt covenants in both mitigating agency frictions and maximizing the value of future private information.