First Look

April 28, 2009

Cases this week put the global diversity of faculty research on full display. "First National Bank's Golden Opportunity" describes the launch of an unusual savings product in South Africa that does not pay interest but gives depositors a chance to win cash prizes instead. Another case, "South Pole Carbon Asset Management—Going for Gold?" studies the environmental market for carbon credits and looks to the future for entrepreneurial opportunities and innovative practices around curbing pollution. Further afield, "JWT China: Advertising for the New Chinese Consumer" sheds light on the Chinese ad industry and a steeply regulated media climate under government control. "The Metropolitan Opera" delves into an experiment conducted by the New York-based opera company to offer the experience of live performances in high definition in U.S. movie theaters: Is it a program that can be sustained? "VOSS Artesian Water from Norway," meanwhile, weighs the market for chic brands of drinking water. And if one aspect of management holds true around the world, it's the family business. "Note on Valuing Control and Liquidity in Family and Closely Held Firms" explains some of the intricacies of valuing these firms.
— Martha Lagace

Working Papers

No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments (revised)


We present six studies demonstrating that outcome information biases ethical judgments of others' ethically questionable behaviors. In particular, we show that the same behaviors produce more ethical condemnation when they happen to produce bad rather than good outcomes, even if the outcomes are determined by chance. Our studies show that individuals judge behaviors as less ethical, more blameworthy, and punish them more harshly, when such behaviors led to undesirable consequences, even if they saw those behaviors as acceptable before they knew the consequences. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that a rational, analytic mindset can override the effects of one's intuitions in ethical judgments. Implications for both research and practice are discussed.

Download the paper:

Turning Waste into By-Product (revised)


We determine, in a competitive setting, the optimal operating regimes for a firm that converts its waste stream into a useful and saleable by-product. In the situation where waste becomes a source of profit, our research shows that it is almost never optimal to maintain the same operating regime as under the old paradigm where waste was a cost burden and merely convert the existing waste into by-product. Our model uncovers three operating regimes: partial conversion (only part of the waste stream is converted into by-product), full+ conversion (the entire waste stream is converted into by-product and "waste substitute" virgin raw material is sourced to produce even more by-product), and exactly full conversion (the amount of by-product produced is exactly the amount that can be produced using the entire waste stream). The operational synergy in the joint production process is manifested as one of two subsidies: the by-product is subsidized by the disposal cost because the by-product "consumes" the waste, or the original product is subsidized by the virgin raw material cost because the original product "feeds" the by-product process. The values of these two costs/subsidies determine which operating regime is optimal. These two costs also serve as mechanisms to transfer wealth between the firm's original market, the by-product market. Since waste is now a useful raw material, the firm may increase profit by generating more "waste." By converting waste into by-product, the firm not only reduces waste disposal cost and increases revenue, but also may be able to reduce its environmental impact. However, although this practice is generally lauded as a win-win for business and the environment, the firm may actually increase emissions if it acts to maximize profit because it would increase production to leverage the competitive advantage it gains from its operational synergy.

Download the paper:

On Good Scholarship, Goal Setting, and Scholars Gone Wild


In this article, we define good scholarship, highlight our points of disagreement with Locke and Latham (2009), and call for further academic research to examine the full range of goal setting's effects. We reiterate our original claim that goal setting, like a potent medication, can produce both beneficial effects and systematic, negative outcomes (Ordóñez, Schweitzer, Galinsky, & Bazerman, 2009), and, as a result, it should be carefully prescribed and closely monitored.

Download the paper:

Can a Continuously-Liquidating Tontine (or Mutual Inheritance Fund) Succeed Where Immediate Annuities Have Floundered?


A new instrument (the Mutual Inheritance Fund or MIF) is proposed whose purpose is to help people carry their savings forward from the moment they retire into their old age. Like annuities, this instrument requires an up-front payment before people receive any benefits while also protecting people from the risk that they will live a long time. The funds that individuals contribute to a MIF are invested in a mutual fund. The proceeds from the fund's underlying assets are reinvested until the contributor dies or he turns an age specified in advance. If a contributor dies before this pre-specified age, his shares are liquidated and the proceeds are distributed to the other contributors to the MIF. Contributors who are alive at the pre-specified age are also paid the value of their accumulated shares. Like tontines, of which MIF is a variant, this instrument has returns that are more tilted towards old age than annuities. Several advantages of this are discussed, including some that may explain why tontines have proven popular with consumers in the past.

Download the paper:



Where Is the Pharmacy to the World? Pharmaceutical Industry Location and International Regulatory Variation


A consumer-oriented model for drug development and use has attracted attention in recent years as an alternative to the much-maligned approach of mass-marketing blockbuster drugs. In a parallel development, patients and disease-based organizations have assumed greater roles in defining disease categories than in the past and now influence clinical trials and participate in regulatory decision-making. Yet these developments are far from universal and are taking very different forms around the world. Building on data showing that pharmaceutical firms headquartered in the United States have performed well since 1980 when compared to firms in Europe or Asia (measured both by sales and by numbers of new product introductions), this essay explores the interplay of regulation, definitions of "patient" and "consumer," and centers of power for the pharmaceutical industry. A comparison of the United States and Germany in particular, and the United States and European Union more generally, suggests that how countries resolve tensions between protecting patients and empowering consumers will impact the international competitive standing of their domestic pharmaceutical industries.

Earnings Management, Corporate Tax Shelters, and Book-Tax Alignment


This paper reviews recent evidence analyzing the link between earnings management and corporate tax avoidance and considers the implications for how policymakers should evaluate the financial reporting environment facing firms. A real-world tax shelter is dissected to illustrate how tax shelter products enable managers to manipulate reported earnings. A stylized example is developed that generalizes this view of corporate tax avoidance and empirical evidence consistent with this view is discussed. This view of corporate tax avoidance implies that shareholders and policymakers should question the rationale for distinct financial reports and that greater book-tax alignment may have mutually beneficial effects for investors and tax authorities.

Download the paper from SSRN ($5):


Cases & Course Materials


Harvard Business School Case 209-090

Steel Partners is a U.S.-based hedge fund that has made a large investment in Japan-based wigmaker Aderans. The case is set at the close of the annual meeting in May 2008, when shareholders have voted against all incumbent board members. Steel Partners must act quickly. The case serves as an overview of corporate governance issues in Japan, as well as describing the costs and benefits of the "stakeholder" view of corporate governance.

Purchase this case:

Buildings and Energy

Harvard Business School Case 708-024

Presents data on opportunities to conserve energy in buildings, which account for about a third of all energy use. Encourages readers to think about the impediments to energy efficiency in the buildings sector and the ways in which entrepreneurs can profitably surmount the obstacles.

Purchase this case:

Conchay Toro

Harvard Business School Case 509-018

Chile's largest wine producer faces a price versus value positioning problem. Its highest quality wines are not priced competitively at retail because "Made in Chile" connotes great value and low price.

Purchase this case:

Financial Management of Family and Closely Held Firms: Overview of the Course

Harvard Business School Course Overview 209-137

Most companies around the world are controlled by their founding families, including more than half of all public corporations in the U.S. and Europe and more than two thirds of those in Asia. These companies are the subject of the Financial Management of Family and Closely Held Firms course, an elective MBA course at Harvard Business School. The course introduces students to the unique finance, governance, and management issues faced by family firms and to the ways in which these issues can be addressed. The course provides students with a framework for analyzing how family ownership, control, and management affect value and whether and how more value can be created for the various stakeholders in family firms. The course is designed for students who may be involved with these companies in a variety of roles, including those of founders, shareholders, or managers of their own family's firm, as well as those of non-family managers and employees, investors or business partners (e.g., private equity investors), and advisors of various kinds (e.g., investment bankers, board members, or consultants).

Purchase this case:

First National Bank's Golden Opportunity

Harvard Business School Case 208-072

Executives at First National Bank in South Africa are considering whether to launch a potentially exciting, but rather unorthodox, new savings product. Instead of paying interest, this product gives depositors the chance to win large cash prizes each month. Michael Jordan, CEO of the bank's Consumer Solutions Division, must decide whether to approve the product, weighing the potential benefits against large upfront investment, uncertain market demand, and the complication that the product might face legal challenges.

Purchase this case:

Gucci Group in 2009

Harvard Business School Case 709-459

The Gucci Group had transformed itself into the world's third largest luxury retailer with multiple brands. The company had performed well even after the departure of star designer Tom Ford and former CEO Domenico De Sole. However, the challenging global economic times in 2009 raised the question whether it was time, again, to re-adjust Gucci's portfolio, especially as YSL continued to lose money.

Purchase this case:

HP: The Computer Is Personal Again

Harvard Business School Case 509-010

In September 2008, Todd Bradley, executive vice president of Hewlett-Packard Company's Personal Systems Group (PSG), gathered his thoughts before a meeting with his top executives and managers for product design and marketing. On the agenda was a discussion of strategic next steps for the group. Hewlett-Packard (HP), a technology company providing a wide range of products and services including computers, handheld devices, servers, and digital entertainment, employed 172,000 people and posted $104 billion in sales in 2007. PSG, one of HP's three major divisions, offered notebook and desktop personal computers, handheld mobile computing devices, monitors, workstations, and related support services. Bradley's PSG had played an important role in HP's financial success over the previous three years.

Purchase this case:

IBM: The Corporate Service Corps

Harvard Business School Case 409-106

Describes the conception, development, and implementation of the Corporate Services Corps (CSC), an international community service assignment for high-potential IBM employees. The year 2008 was the pilot year of the CSC program, and 100 of IBM's best global employees were deployed to work for local partners, frequently non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in locations such as Ghana, Tanzania, Romania, Philippines, and Vietnam. The case provides data for students to assess the first year of operation and recommend what changes IBM should make to the program moving forward. Also considered is how the CSC fits into IBM's broader corporate citizenship portfolio and IBM's globalization strategy.

Purchase this case:

Incept LLC and Confluent Surgical (A)

Harvard Business School Case 809-062

A venture capitalist must decide whether to invest in a medical technology company that licenses intellectual property from a privately held IP holding company based on a platform technology. Entrepreneurs Amar Sawhney and Fred Khosravi founded Incept LLC to commercialize their multi-use hydrogel technology. The pair then spun off Confluent Surgical to develop some, but not all, of Incept's IP. The specifics of which IP Confluent would develop were described by a licensing agreement between Incept and Confluent. Venture capitalist Charles Warden of Schroder Ventures Life Sciences was deciding whether to invest in a Series A financing round in Confluent. Initially very excited about the deal, Warden becomes concerned about Confluent's valuation and its ability to succeed as a business when he learns about restrictions placed upon Confluent by the licensing agreement. The case describes Incept's business model and its approach to managing risk in early-stage ventures. The case also addresses issues such as diversification and options preservation as well as the importance of trust and long-term relationships in decision making in entrepreneurial arenas.

Purchase this case:

JWT China: Advertising for the New Chinese Consumer

Harvard Business School Case 809-079

This case analyzes the business strategy and expansion of JWT China from the late 1990s to 2008. As part of the world's fourth largest marketing communications network, JWT China grew into one of the largest integrated communications companies in China operating from offices in various parts of the country. The case provides students with a comprehensive history of and insights into China's advertising industry and the challenges for foreign and domestic firms operating within a highly regulated media environment controlled by the Chinese government. At the same time, this case offers insights into the structure of the highly fragmented Chinese consumers market, exploring the socio-economic disparities in income and media access as well as culturally determined consumer behavior across different regions and urban and rural areas. The case lets students explore how these trends might impact JWT's advertising and marketing strategies in the future and how to evaluate JWT's business expansion in China dealing with local and foreign competition.

Purchase this case:

Kinyuseisaku: Monetary Policy in Japan (B)

Harvard Business School Case 709-056

Toshihiko Fukui, who works for the Government of the Bank of Japan, faced a complex situation in the fall of 2007. An economic recovery had allowed the central bank to abandon its zero interest rate policy, which had been in place for years, and raise rates to 0.5%. The Bank of Japan was eager to increase them to more "normal" levels to exert effective monetary policy. Yet the appropriate timing and approach was a controversial issue, especially as the government did not want a rate hike that could potentially hinder economic growth and increase its already large fiscal debt burden.

Purchase this case:

The Metropolitan Opera (A)

Harvard Business School Case 509-033

In April 2007, the New York City Metropolitan Opera's general manager Peter Gelb looks back on the first season of a daring experiment to broadcast performances live in high-definition to movie theaters across North America. While the "Live in HD" program has received mostly positive reviews, there are lingering concerns. Do the benefits of the simulcasts continue to outweigh the possible drawbacks and the significant operational and financial resources?

Purchase this case:

Purchase supplement (B):

Mistry Architects: Innovating for Sustainability (C)

Harvard Business School Case 609-086

This case is a follow-up to "Mistry Architects: Innovating for Sustainability (A)" (Case 609-044) and (B) (Case 609-086). In Case (A) Sharukh and Renu Mistry founded and run an architectural firm dedicated to being both client-oriented and environmentally responsible. The case uses a difficult design decision in a tsunami rehabilitation project to illustrate the challenges faced by professional services firms and the role of innovation in meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders. The specific design decision is to make a choice between thatch roofs, which are environmentally friendly, versus reinforced cement concrete roofs that the villagers desire for their functionality. Case (B) reveals and explains the firm's choice, while describing how the community rebuilds itself after the tsunami, as well as how the firm evolves. The (C) case discusses the future plans of the firm including growth and succession issues.

Purchase this case:

Note on Measuring Controlling Shareholders' Ownership, Voting, and Control Rights

Harvard Business School Case 209-109

Founders and their families can raise equity without relinquishing control of their companies through the use of mechanisms such as dual-class stock, pyramidal ownership, voting agreements, and disproportionate board representation. The use of these mechanisms in publicly traded companies is widespread throughout the world and in the United States. Understanding how the various mechanisms contribute to the separation between economic ownership and control is important for the individuals who set them up because the choice among these mechanisms impacts firm value. It is also important for minority shareholders in these companies and for regulators, for reasons of transparency and investor protection.

Purchase this case:

Note on Sum-of-the-Parts Valuation

Harvard Business School Case 209-105

Most large companies operate in more than one business. Valuing a diversified company requires separate valuations for each of its businesses and for the corporate headquarters. This method of valuing a company by parts and then adding them up is known as Sum-of-the-Parts (SOTP) valuation and is commonly used in practice by stock market analysts and companies themselves. However, it is rarely taught in MBA programs or broached in valuation textbooks. Yet the application of the method raises a number of challenges.

Purchase this case:

Note on Valuing Control and Liquidity in Family and Closely Held Firms

Harvard Business School Case 209-104

Most companies around the world are family controlled and/or closely held. The need to value these companies routinely arises in practice for a variety of reasons, e.g., to buy out minority shareholders; for gift and estate tax purposes; to tie executive compensation to firm performance; to raise outside capital; or to sell the company outright. However, these companies present certain unique characteristics that can make standard valuation methods inappropriate for them.

Purchase this case:

Ocean Tomo: Building a Market for Intellectual Property

Harvard Business School Case 709-404

Ocean Tomo's management team sought to turn the company into the leading intermediary for intellectual property. Despite its increasingly important role in the global marketplace, IP remained a notoriously illiquid asset-difficult to value, harder to trade, and often underutilized by owners. CEO Jim Malackowski and his colleagues hoped to capitalize on this inefficiency by designing and operating innovative marketplaces for intellectual property. After a successful live IP auction in the spring of 2008 (62% of 85 offered lots were sold for a total of $19.6 million), Ocean Tomo had to decide which of its five business lines to emphasize. Indeed, from its inception, Ocean Tomo had been designed as a "one-stop shop" for IP services, with five interrelated lines of business. Which of these services provided the largest market opportunity for Ocean Tomo? How should the company allocate its scarce resources (it had not sought outside funding yet) in order to get the most leverage going forward?

Purchase this case:

Powerchip Semiconductor Corporation

Harvard Business School Case 609-063

Powerchip Semiconductor Corporation has a horizontal firm structure in an industry that is predominantly organized vertically. While it has been successful in up markets, in the current down market its strategic rationale was being tested. As a capital-intensive manufacturer of DRAMs that had to license its designs from abroad, was it able to compete with large vertically integrated firms that controlled the whole value chain? How did its approach compare to that of its partner Elpida? Can Powerchip and Elpida together make up a "virtual integrated device manufacturer"? The case examines some of the unique characteristics of the DRAM industry, in which manufacturers employ large scale to compete on cost in the production of standardized commodities.

Purchase this case:

South Pole Carbon Asset Management—Going for Gold?

Harvard Business School Case 709-030

In late 2008, Christoph Sutter, CEO of South Pole Carbon Asset Management, reflects on his firm's early success at originating carbon credits in developing nations and selling them to governments and firms that seek to offset their greenhouse gas emissions voluntarily or to fulfill regulatory obligations. South Pole's early strategy has focused on being a first mover in the niche market for premium quality carbon credits. But as the market evolves in the face of significant policy uncertainty, Sutter wonders what South Pole's strategy should be for the future. This case study can facilitate discussions about environmental markets, about opportunities for entrepreneurship raised by new environmental regulations, and about challenges in markets for tradable pollution permits.

Purchase this case:

Targanta Therapeutics: Hitting a Moving Target

Harvard Business School Case 709-002

This case explores regulatory, product testing, and business strategy at Targanta Therapeutics, a biotech company preparing its first new drug application to the FDA. In October 2007, Mark Leuchtenberger, president and CEO of Targanta—which has just held a successful IPO—weighs options for the approximately ten-month review period after the company submits to the Food and Drug Administration. The case reviews Targanta's origins and "de-risking" of oritavancin, an antibiotic therapy for drug-resistant infections that was first invented at Eli Lilly and then spun out to InterMune before Targanta acquired it in late 2005. To highlight the impact of regulatory policy on business strategy, the case then describes a set of choices facing the firm, including staffing a marketing and sales group, carrying out additional clinical testing to expand the approved indications, applying for European market approval, or keeping funds in reserve in the event that the FDA requests further data.

Purchase this case:

VOSS Artesian Water from Norway

Harvard Business School Case 509-040

VOSS is a Norwegian bottled water company that produces one of the world's purest drinking waters, sold at an ultra-premium price in a sleek cylindrical glass bottle of minimalist design. In the U.S. (the company's primary market), VOSS's high-end brand presence is strongest in on-premise locations—specifically, top-of-the-line restaurants, hotels, and clubs. The brand has only recently begun penetrating the off-premise channel. In June 2007, Ole Christian Sandberg, VOSS's founder and head of U.S. operations, is considering how to grow the brand. The key question is whether VOSS should increase its distribution in the off-premise channel. Will this diminish VOSS's high-end brand cachet? A related question is whether VOSS should begin expanding its portfolio by offering, for example, flavored water for the rapidly evolving U.S. bottled water market.

Purchase this case:

Washington Mutual's Covered Bonds

Harvard Business School Case 209-093

Washington Mutual issued 6 billion euro of covered bonds in 2006. The objective of the case is to ask whether these bonds are mispriced in late 2008. The case is set in September 2008, and Washington Mutual is facing considerable distress due to mounting losses in its mortgage portfolio. Following investment bank Lehman Brother's Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing in mid-September, the price of Washington Mutual's covered bonds has fallen to 75 per 100 of face value. As these bonds are overcollateralized, the case asks students to evaluate the underlying collateral portfolio in the event of liquidation, as well as assessing the likelihood of different outcomes. The case takes place during a period of considerable uncertainty in the global capital markets.

Purchase this case:

Windows Vista

Harvard Business School Case 909-038

Microsoft designs, modifies, publicizes, and distributes Windows Vista—against a backdrop of consumers already largely satisfied with their existing Windows XP systems. Microsoft must decide what features to include and what to drop, how to compete with its own installed base, and how to mobilize partners to offer Vista-compatible systems.

Purchase this case:

Yahoo! in China (A)

Harvard Business School Case 609-051

In 2007 Jerry Yang, CEO of Yahoo!, was lambasted by U.S. Representative Tom Lantos, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, for Yahoo's role in the arrest and imprisonment of Chinese journalist and democracy advocate Shi Tao. The case describes the actions that Yahoo! had taken to grow its business in China, its handling of a government request for the identity of a Yahoo! user, and subsequent actions by the firm to respond to negative publicity and congressional inquiry. The case raises broad questions about the challenge of complying with domestic law when operating in states that do not consistently respect human rights, and satisfying stakeholders across national boundaries. It allows students to consider the practical steps that a firm can take to protect itself and its stakeholders in states where the law is not always a reliable safeguard.

Purchase this case: