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Dissertations

Analyst reputation, communication and information acquisition

Xiaojing Wang, 2012
Faculty Advisor: Tim Baldenius

Abstract

Strategic information transmission models, also called cheap talk models, have become increasingly popular in accounting, as they have successfully brought new insights to various accounting topics. This dissertation consists of two chapters, each analyzes a model of strategic information transmission between an expert and a decision maker.

In the first chapter, I study how reputational concerns affect analysts' incentives to invest in information acquisition, and subsequently, their strategic communication with investors in form of "repeated cheap talk". In a setting where analysts' incentives may be misaligned with the investors in a particular fashion (i.e. biased towards issuing optimistic reports), an equilibrium exists in which only aligned analysts will acquire information. As a result, investors may favorably update their beliefs about the analysts' type (as being aligned) when the report is consistent with the realized state. Hence reputational concerns serve as a disciplining device to curb analysts' opportunistic behavior, consistent with economic intuition. This is in sharp contrast to earlier studies that have treated information as exogenous and identical, in which case reputational concerns may work against informative communication.

The second chapter is based on joint work with Tim Baldenius and Nahum Melumad. In this work, we study the optimal board composition--of monitoring and advisory "types"--within a framework of strategic communication between the CEO and the board when the CEO is an empire builder. The board of directors performs the dual role of monitoring and advising the firm's management. At times, it makes certain key decisions itself. A major concern regarding the effectiveness of boards is CEO power, in particular as it relates to the board nomination process and CEO entrenchment. Monitoring types on the board aim to uncover information known to the CEO, whereas advisors aim to uncover incrementally decision-relevant information. Successful board monitoring allows for selective intervention even if authority is formally delegated to the CEO. Counter to conventional wisdom, we show that powerful CEOs, who influence the board nomination process, may in fact prefer more monitors on the board than do shareholders. Regulatory interventions (such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) that attempt to strengthen the monitoring role of boards may thus be harmful in precisely those cases where agency problems are severe. Lastly, to prevent that CEOs entrench themselves by choosing "complex" projects, shareholders may want to commit to an advisor-heavy board.

 

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