Why Good Deeds Invite Bad Publicity

Many executives assume that investments in corporate social responsibility create public goodwill. But do they? Felix Oberholzer-Gee and colleagues find surprising results when it comes to oil spills. Closed for comment; 21 Comments posted.

No News Is Good News: CSR Strategy and Newspaper Coverage of Negative Firm Events

This study examines the gatekeeping role of the media in determining which negative corporate events reach a broader audience. Jiao Luo, Stephan Meier, and Felix Oberholzer-Gee test the idea that investments in corporate social responsibility (CSR) create public good will, leading the media to treat companies with a superior CSR track record in a favorable manner. They find the opposite. Newspapers are more likely to report negative news about companies if the companies invested heavily in CSR. For example, oil companies that invest in clean energy face a greater risk of media coverage in the event of an oil spill. An analysis of the tone of media coverage shows that news reports are no more positive for CSR leaders than for the average company. Read More

Earnings Management from the Bottom Up: An Analysis of Managerial Incentives Below the CEO

Many studies as well as anecdotes document a link between the structure of chief executive officer (CEO) compensation and various measures of earnings manipulation. In this paper, HBS professors Oberholzer-Gee and Wulf analyze all components of compensation packages for CEOs and for managers at lower levels in a large sample of firms over more than 10 years, between 1986 and 1999. Results suggest that the effects of incentive pay on earnings management vary considerably by both type of incentive pay and position. Overall, it appears that the primary focus of compensation committees on equity incentives for CEOs overlooks a critical component in curbing earnings manipulation. If one wanted to weaken incentive pay to get more truthful reporting, diluting bonuses-particularly that of the chief financial officer (CFO)-would be the place to start. This may be the first study to analyze the relationship between CEO, division manager, and CFO compensation and earnings management. Read More

Sharpening Your Skills: Leveraging Intellectual Property

Many companies lack a coherent policy for maximizing the value of their intellectual property. In this collection from our archives, Harvard Business School faculty offer insights on the importance of IP and how best to protect and use it. Read More

Truth in Giving: Experimental Evidence on the Welfare Effects of Informed Giving to the Poor

It is often difficult for donors to predict the value of charitable giving because they know little about the persons who receive their help. While there is substantial evidence that individuals use information about recipients to decide how generous a donation to make, we know surprisingly little about how much donors care to help their preferred types. To start closing this gap, HBS professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Carnegie Mellon University coauthor Christina Fong study transfers of income to real-world poor people in the context of experimental games. Their findings have implications for governments and nongovernmental organizations that seek to increase the financial and political support for wealth transfer programs. Read More

File-Sharing and Copyright

The researchers argue that file-sharing technology has not undermined the incentives of artists and entertainment companies to create, market, and distribute new works. The advent of new technology has allowed consumers to copy music, books, video games, and other protected works on an unprecedented scale at minimal cost. Such technology has considerably weakened copyright protection, first of music and software and increasingly of movies, video games, and books. While policy discussion surrounding file-sharing has largely focused on the legality of the new technology and the question of whether declining sales in music are due to file-sharing, the debate has been overly narrow. Copyright protection exists to encourage innovation and the creation of new works—in other words, to promote social welfare. This essay analyzes the landscape and identifies areas for more research. Read More

The Rise of Medical Tourism

Medical tourism—traveling far and wide for health care that is often better and certainly cheaper than at home—appeals to patients with complaints ranging from heart ailments to knee pain. Why is India leading in the globalization of medical services? Q&A with Harvard Business School's Tarun Khanna. Read More

Climate Change Puts Heat on GMs

Ready or not, companies are being swept up in the increasing public debate over global climate change. How should firms respond? A case study exploring how financial service giant UBS thinks through the issues has students coming down on different sides. Read More

Diversification of Chinese Companies: An International Comparison

Many observers have argued that Chinese managers are particularly quick to diversify their enterprises. Fueled by robust economic growth and the scant enforcement of intellectual property rights that could serve as barriers to entry, Chinese companies appear to be aggressively expanding into new industries whenever economic opportunities appear to beckon. There is much anecdotal evidence to support this view. But because the Chinese economy is extraordinarily large and dynamic, it is difficult to know whether anecdotes reflect an underlying trend toward greater diversification. This paper provides systematic evidence about the scope of Chinese companies, and compares the data with the evolution of firm scope in 8 other large economies. Read More

The Dark Side of Trust

It has been well documented that strong trust between a buyer and supplier provides many advantages, such as increased productivity. But according to new research coauthored by HBS professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee, trusting relationships can also have a negative side that managers must take into account. Read More

The Speed of New Ideas: Trust, Institutions and the Diffusion of New Products

Does trust confer competitive advantage in terms of time, money, and productivity? Previous research indicates that it does. This study shifts perspective slightly and asks whether trust can also act as a barrier to entry. In other words, are trusted suppliers protected from competition if buyers are reluctant to try new products and services offered by other suppliers? Oberholzer-Gee and Calanog explored the link between levels of trust and the decision to adopt a new product using a field experiment on the diffusion of an innovative floor drain for the plumbing market. Read More

Media Markets and Localism: Does Local News en Español Boost Hispanic Voter Turnout?

The increased integration of markets for news and entertainment means that more viewers can watch shows that better match their preferences, whether that means American football, Japanese anime, or Mexican soap operas. But is there an attendant risk to civic society, as some scholars claim? Do locally engaged citizens turn into passive viewers? The explosion in the U.S. of local television news in Spanish provides an ideal stage for probing these questions. This paper tests whether the presence of local television news affects local civic engagement in the form of voter turnout. Read More

Will the “Long Tail” Work for Hollywood?

The "long-tail phenomenon" is well documented: Amazon.com makes significant profits selling many low-volume books. But can the long tail work for video sales as well? A new working paper by professors Anita Elberse and Felix Oberholzer-Gee suggests that it may not bring the same benefits to Hollywood. Read More

The Cost of Cutting in Line

Harvard Business School faculty rarely put their personal safety at risk to prove a point, but Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee came close when he cut ahead in line—all in the name of science. Here's what companies can learn about long lines and social behavior. Read More

Music Downloads: Pirates—or Customers?

Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee and co-author Koleman Strumpf floored the disbelieving music industry with their findings that illegal music downloads don’t hurt CD sales. Oberholzer discusses what the industry should do next. Read More