Research

Working Papers:

The salience of ESG Ratings for Stock Pricing: Evidence from (Potentially) Confused Investors (with Kathleen Weiss Hanley and Loriana Pelizzon)
Semi-finalist of Best Paper Award in Investments at FMA 2021

Presentations: Tinbergen Institute Amsterdam*, Frankfurt School of Management, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, European Central Bank, Frankfurter Institute fur Risikomanagement und Regulierung*, European Central Bank, Bundesbank, IWFSAS 2021 Conference, Credit 2021 Conference*, IRMC Conference 

We exploit a modification to Sustainalytics’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) rating methodology, which is subsequently adopted by Morningstar, to study whether ESG ratings are salient for stock pricing. We show that the inversion of the rating scale but not new information leads some investors to make incorrect assessments about the meaning of the change in ESG ratings. They buy (sell) stocks they misconceive as ESG upgraded (downgraded) even when the opposite is true. This trading behavior exerts transitory price pressure on affected stocks. Our paper highlights the importance of ESG ratings for investors and consequently for asset prices.



Passive-Aggressive Trading: The Supply and Demand of Liquidity by Mutual Funds (with Susan Christoffersen, Donald Keim, and David Musto) – Review of Finance, Forthcoming

Presentations: FRIC Conference 2018, European Finance Association 2018, Northern Finance Association 2018, BI Oslo, Alabama University*, Bank of England*

Fund managers can demand liquidity for their trading ideas or provide liquidity for others’ ideas. We identify the roles of these motives using a database of the individual transactions by Canadian equity funds. Both the cost and subsequent performance of their buys decline after strong inflows, indicating the depletion of ideas and substitution into liquidity provision as funds quickly put new money to work. Sales show little of this substitution, consistent with funds’ narrower latitude to provide liquidity to buyers. In general, the option to provide liquidity makes fund performance positive in the transactions costs of buys, but not of sells.


Mutual Fund Flight-to-Liquidity
Presentations: American Finance Association 2017, Northern Finance Association 2016, Asian Finance Association 2018, USC Marshal PhD Conference in Finance 2015, PhD Nordic Finance Workshop 2015, Bank for International Settlements, Bank of Canada, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen University, Aarhus University, IESE, BI Oslo, Rotterdam School of Management, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Deutsche Bundesbank, Geothe University, DeGroote School of Business, School of Administrative Studies (York University), and Schulich School of Business

This paper empirically investigates a channel through which market uncertainty affects the liquidity premium. Using data at the mutual fund level, I document that increases in market uncertainty are associated with lower performance and more withdrawals. Consequently, funds adjust the composition of their portfolio towards more liquid assets in order to meet potential redemptions. Aggregated over many funds, this `flight-to-liquidity’ places significant upward price pressure on the liquidity premium: a one standard deviation increase in my measure of active liquidity management yields a 1.22 standard deviation increase in the return spread between illiquid and liquid stocks.
Online Appendix is available here.



Liquid Co-Illiquidity Management (with Massimo Massa and Søren Hvidkjær)
Presentations: Mutual Fund, Hedge Fund and Factor Investing Conference 2019, 8th Luxembourg Asset Management Summit 2019, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Schulich School of Business

We study the link between illiquidity and co-movement in illiquidity and the way asset managers trade off illiquidity and co-illiquidity in their portfolio allocation decision. By exploring two experiments – the 2005 SHO Regulation and the 2008 short selling ban – we document that in the face of sudden illiquidity shocks, short-term investors are willing to accept high portfolio co-illiquidity to circumvent and increase in their holdings’ illiquidity.


Skilled active liquidity management — a natural experiment

I study the active liquidity management of equity mutual funds in US. First, I show that mutual funds actively increase the liquidity of their portfolio in response to a negative and exogenous shock to investor flows. I document that fund managers use both equity and cash holdings to adjust their portfolio’s liquidity when subject to sudden and unexpected withdrawals. Second, I argue that active liquidity management is an effective device that skilled managers use to minimize the cost imposed by redemption obligations. I find that funds that actively manage their liquidity to a greater degree outperform their less liquidity focused peers by up to 4.92% per year.


Money in the Right Hands: The Price Effects of Specialized Demand (with Rüdiger Weber)

We study stock liquidity from a demand-based perspective in the context of mutual fund fire sales. Specifically, we show that active and specialized demand is a key determinant of fire sale price discounts. Only when there is a lack of specialized demand, as proxied by inflows to active, specialized funds, do we observe the marked price pressure effects recorded previously in the literature. Inflows to passive funds have little to no impact on price discounts, pointing to the importance of active mandates for price efficiency. Our findings are robust to using the exogenous variation in fire sale pressure due to the 2003 late trading scandal. Asset quality and adverse selection do not explain the result. Rather, our results suggest inefficient allocations induced by forced sales as an explanation for price pressure. This implies that fire-sale pressure in the absence of active specialized demand can be interpreted as a non-fundamental shock to prices.


Local Economic Conditions and Local Equity Preferences: Evidence from Mutual Funds during the U.S. Housing Boom and Bust (with Chandler Lutz and Ben Sand)
Presentations: Urban Economic Association 2017, Canadian Economic Association 2017*, Copenhagen Business School, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business

This paper examines the impact of local economic conditions on mutual fund preferences for geographically proximate stocks and consequently fund performance. Specifically, we demonstrate that mutual funds favoritism towards firms located within close geographic proximity varies with local housing price shocks. A decrease in local house prices is strongly associated with an increase in mutual fund home bias and results in a portfolio adjustment towards safer and higher quality holdings. This previously undocumented behavioral bias is of first order importance, as the shift in mutual fund preferences towards local stocks induced by deterioration in local economic conditions is associated with mutual fund underperformance: a one percentage point increase in home bias causes a decrease in a fund’s characteristic-adjusted 3-month future return by 35.3 bps.



House Prices and Taxes (with Mads Nielsen Gjedsted)
Presentations: Word Finance Conference 2014* and European Economic Association & Econometric Society 2014*

By using the 2007 municipality reform in Denmark as an exogenous shock to municipal tax rates, we find that a 1%-point increase in income tax rates lead to a drop in house prices of 7.9% and a 1‰-point increase in the property tax rates lead to a 1.1% drop in house prices. The simple present values of a 1%-point perpetual income tax increase and a 1‰-point property tax increase, relative to the median house price, are 7% and 3.3%, respectively. Our findings are thus in line with the predicted median tax loss. This indicates that the housing market efficiently incorporates taxes into house prices. The exogeneity of the shock to taxes and the size of the data set is an improvement over earlier studies.

 
 

Work in Progress

  1. Political uncertainty and the value of debt (with Agatha Murgoci)

* presented by co-author