Shock-Based Causal Inference in Corporate Finance

The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation 2014-04-11


Editor's Note: Bernard Black is the Nicholas D. Chabraja Professor at Northwestern University School of Law and Kellogg School of Management. The following post is based on a paper co-authored by Professor Black and Vladimir Atanasov at the Mason School of Business, College of William and Mary.

Much corporate finance research is concerned with causation—does a change in some input cause a change in some output? Does corporate governance affect firm performance? Does capital structure affect firm investments? How do corporate acquisitions affect the value of the acquirer, or the acquirer and target together? Without a causal link, we lack a strong basis for recommending that firms change their behavior or that governments adopt specific reforms. Consider, for example, corporate governance research. Decisionmakers—corporate boards, investors, and regulators—need to know whether governance causes value, before they decide to change the governance of a firm (or all firms in a country) with the goal of increasing firm value or improving other firm or market outcomes. If researchers provide evidence only on association between governance and outcomes, decisionmakers may adopt changes based on flawed data that may lead to adverse consequences for particular firms.

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Bernard Black, Northwestern University School of Law,

Date tagged:

04/11/2014, 13:50

Date published:

04/11/2014, 09:03