Bo Becker

12 Results


Reaching for Yield in the Bond Market

"Reaching for yield"—investors' propensity to buy high yield assets without regard for risk—has been identified as one of the core factors contributing to the buildup of credit that preceded the financial crisis. Despite this potential importance, however, the way in which reaching for yield works and where it occurs is not well understood. Professors Bo Becker and Victoria Ivashina examine reaching for yield in the corporate bond market by looking among insurance companies, the largest institutional investor in this arena. Findings suggest that reaching for yield may limit the effectiveness of capital regulation to a time-varying and unpredictable extent. Reaching for yield may also allow regulated entities to become riskier than regulators and legislators intend, and may impose distortions on the corporate credit supply. Read More

HBS Cases: A Startup Takes On the Credit Ratings Giants

Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's dominated the credit ratings industry for decades. Could the recession weaken their hold? Professor Bo Becker discusses his case on super startup Kroll. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

HBS Faculty Views on Debt Crisis

In the midst of the US debt crisis, Harvard Business School faculty offer their views on what went wrong and what needs to be done to right the US ship of state. Open for comment; 27 Comments posted.

Activist Board Members Increase Firm’s Market Value

Board members nominated by activist investors presumably have one primary goal: change the status quo. Does that agenda create or diminish value of the firm in the eyes of shareholders? New evidence offered by Harvard Business School professors Bo Becker, Daniel B. Bergstresser, and Guhan Subramanian suggests financial markets value a new approach. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

Does Shareholder Proxy Access Improve Firm Value? Evidence from the Business Roundtable Challenge

In August 2010, the Security and Exchange Commission announced a highly anticipated rule that would make it easier for investors to nominate new board members and get rid of existing ones. It allowed shareholders to have their board candidates included in the company's proxy materials--if those shareholders had owned at least 3 percent of the firm's shares for at least the prior three years. On October 4, the SEC unexpectedly and indefinitely postponed the implementation of that rule, pending the outcome of a lawsuit aimed at overturning it. This paper gauges the significance of the proxy access rule by measuring whether certain firms gained or lost market value on news of the delay. Research was conducted by Harvard Business School professors Bo Becker, Daniel Bergstresser, and Guhan Subramanian. Read More

Payout Taxes and the Allocation of Investment

The corporate payout that shareholders periodically receive--dividends or repurchases of shares--is subject to taxation in many countries. Such taxes make it cheaper to finance investment out of retained earnings than from equity issues. Using tax data from 25 countries over a 19-year period, this paper discusses whether these taxes have a direct effect on investor behavior, and to what extent. Research was conducted by Bo Becker of Harvard Business School, Marcus Jacob of the European Business School, and Martin Jacob of the Otto Beisheim School of Management. Read More

How Did Increased Competition Affect Credit Ratings?

When Fitch Ratings took on Standard & Poor's and Moody's as an alternative credit rating agency in the 1990s, there was a general assumption that the increased competition would lead to higher-quality corporate debt ratings from the incumbents. In fact, their ratings quality declined during the 10-year study period, according to Harvard Business School's Bo Becker and Washington University's Todd Milbourn. One possible cause: competition weakens reputational incentives that drive ratings quality. Read More

Cyclicality of Credit Supply: Firm Level Evidence

Bank lending falls in economic recessions. In particular, it shrank considerably during the recent economic downturn. Does such cyclicality of bank lending reflect a decline in banks' willingness to lend (the "loan supply" effect) or reduced demand for loans from firms (the "loan demand" effect)? The considerable attention that is given to banks' financial health by the Federal Reserve, Congress, and other branches of government is only warranted if the answer is supply. Focusing on U.S. firms that raised new debt financing between 1990 and 2009, HBS professors Bo Becker and Victoria Ivashina demonstrate that many large U.S. firms turn to the bond market when banks are in poor financial health. When times are better, the same firms get bank loans. Becker and Ivashina argue that the substitution between bonds and loans at the firm-level is a good economic proxy for the bank credit supply. Read More

Fiduciary Duties and Equity-Debtholder Conflicts

Managerial decisions influence the distribution of value between different parties. This can lead to conflicting interests among financial claimants, such as holders of equity and debt. The Credit Lyonnais v. Pathe Communications bankruptcy ruling of 1991 before the Delaware court—a case widely perceived to have created a new obligation for directors of Delaware‐incorporated firms—provides an interesting opportunity to assess whether and how equity-debt conflict affects firm behavior. HBS professor Bo Becker and Stockholm School of Economics professor Per Strömberg outline important changes in behavior after Credit Lyonnais. Read More

Estimating the Effects of Large Shareholders Using a Geographic Instrument

Are large shareholders good monitors of management? A public firm's shareholders have extensive legal control rights in the corporation, but in practice much of this control is delegated to managers. In companies with small, dispersed shareholders, owners may find it costly to coordinate and exercise monitoring and control, leaving management with considerable discretion. Large shareholders, however—by concentrating a block of shares in the hands of a single decision-maker—may play a beneficial role in facilitating effective owner control. Yet large shareholders are not without their costs. HBS professor Bo Becker and coauthors develop and test a framework to quantify the impact of large owners (individual non-managerial blockholders, not mutual funds or other institutions) on several key aspects of firm behavior. They show that such shareholders play an important role for corporate governance in sizable U.S. public firms, and can affect several firm policies. Read More

Why Competition May Not Improve Credit Rating Agencies

Competition usually creates better products and services. But when competition increased among credit rating agencies, the result was less accurate ratings, according to a study by HBS professor Bo Becker and finance professor Todd Milbourn of Washington University in St Louis. In our Q&A, Becker discusses why users of ratings should exercise a little caution. Read More

Reputation and Competition: Evidence from the Credit Rating Industry

Credit ratings are a key aspect of the financial system. The quality of these ratings is certainly sustained in part by the reputational concerns of rating agencies, whose paying customers have no inherent interest in the quality of ratings. Competition in this industry has been increasing, and there have been calls for yet more competition. Whether competition will reduce quality or improve it is not yet clear. HBS professor Bo Becker and Washington University in St. Louis professor Todd Milbourn test these conflicting predictions in the ratings industry. Their evidence is more or less consistent with a reduction in credit rating quality as Fitch increased its market presence. Their empirical findings suggest that the system will work better when competition is not too severe. These results have potential policy implications. Read More