Sell Side School Ties
Executive Summary — Certain agents play key roles in revealing information into securities markets. In the equities market, security analysts are among the most important. A large part of an analyst's job (perhaps the majority) is to research, produce, and disclose reports forecasting aspects of companies' future prospects, and to translate their forecasts into stock recommendations. Therefore, isolating how, or from whom, analysts obtain the information they use to produce their recommendations is important. Do analysts gain comparative information advantages through their social networks—specifically, their educational ties with senior officers and board members of firms that they cover? This paper investigates ties between sell-side analysts and management of public firms, and the subsequent performance of their stock recommendations. Key concepts include:
- Equity analysts outperform on their stock recommendations when they have an educational link to that company.
- A simple portfolio strategy of going long the buy recommendations of analysts with school ties and going short the buy recommendations of analysts without ties earns returns of 5.40% per year in the full sample.
- Informal information networks are an important, yet under-emphasized channel through which private information gets revealed into prices.
We study the impact of social networks on agents' ability to gather superior information about firms. Exploiting novel data on the educational backgrounds of sell-side equity analysts and senior officers of firms, we test the hypothesis that analysts' school ties to senior officers impart comparative information advantages in the production of analyst research. We find evidence that analysts outperform on their stock recommendations when they have an educational link to the company. A simple portfolio strategy of going long the buy recommendations with school ties and going short buy recommendations without ties earns returns of 5.40% per year. We test whether Regulation FD, targeted at impeding selective disclosure, constrained the use of direct access to senior management. We find a large effect: pre-Reg FD the return premium from school ties was 8.16% per year, while post-Reg FD the return premium is nearly zero and insignificant.