Risky trades

Kevin Lewis

June 20, 2019

Illegal insider trading: Commission and SEC detection
Brandon Cline & Valeriya Posylnaya
Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming


Assessing illegal insider trading is challenging due to the nature of the activity. Researchers observe and evaluate only the detected portion of illegal trading, not all illegal transactions. This presents a problem when using traditional empirical techniques to investigate such activity. In our analysis we employ a bivariate probit model that takes into account the partial observability nature of insider trading and provides estimates for the determinants of both the commission and the detection of illegal insider trading. Among our findings, most notable is the deterrence effect of recent actions taken by the SEC to enforce insider trading laws. We highlight that insiders consider these actions when deciding to trade. We also illustrate the influence of the SEC's political structure on insider trading detection. We show that political party affiliation within the SEC, past indictments by the SEC, and SEC budget all play a crucial role in determining current prosecution.

Breaking Bad: An Investment in Cannabis
Jean-Philippe Weisskopf
Finance Research Letters, forthcoming


This paper investigates the risk and return features of an investment in the cannabis industry. It further describes the current state of the market for cannabis and critically examines its potential future development. Findings show that a portfolio of cannabis stocks displays high volatilities and returns, but also low correlations and beta coefficients with regard to overall stock markets, other sin industries or cryptocurrencies. This makes it an interesting addition to financial portfolios.

Is fertility a leading indicator for stock returns?
Gertjan Verdickt
Finance Research Letters, forthcoming


If fertility behavior is closely related to business cycle behavior, there should be evidence in financial markets. I document that a decrease in fertility growth negatively forecasts real excess returns, several months ahead. More interestingly, this effect is not yet captured by demographic, business cycle or confidence metrics. The relationship is robust in specific subsamples. Overall, this suggests that fertility growth is a leading indicator for recessions.

Are cryptocurrency traders pioneers or just risk-seekers? Evidence from brokerage accounts
Matthias Pelster, Bastian Breitmayer & Tim Hasso
Economics Letters, forthcoming


Are cryptocurrency traders driven by a desire to invest in a new asset class to diversify their portfolio or are they merely seeking to increase their levels of risk? To answer this question, we use individual-level brokerage data and study their behavior in stock trading around the time they engage in their first cryptocurrency trade. We find that when engaging in cryptocurrency trading investors simultaneously increase their risk-seeking behavior in stock trading as they increase their trading intensity and use of leverage. The increase in risk-seeking in stocks is particularly pronounced when volatility in cryptocurrency returns is low, suggesting that their overall behavior is driven by excitement-seeking.

Reputations and credit ratings: Evidence from commercial mortgage-backed securities
Ramin Baghai & Bo Becker
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


How do changes in a rating agency's reputation affect the ratings market? We study the dynamics of credit ratings after Standard & Poor's (S&P) was shut out of a large segment of the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) ratings market following a procedural mistake. Exploiting the fact that most CMBS have ratings from multiple agencies, we show that S&P subsequently eased its standards compared to other raters. This coincided with a partial recovery in the number of deals S&P was hired to rate. Our findings suggest that an agency can regain market share after suffering reputational damage by issuing optimistic ratings.

The daylight saving time anomaly in relation to firms targeted for mergers
Antonios Siganos
Journal of Banking & Finance, August 2019, Pages 36-43


This paper finds evidence that daylight saving time changes influence the decision-making of investors when trading in firms targeted for mergers. We find that investors who face imbalances in their circadian cycle generate more positive abnormal stock returns upon the announcement of target firms. This result holds within a large number of robustness tests. Target firms also experience more pronounced stock return volatility in response to their merger announcements the first trading day after clock changes. Overall, these results seem to indicate that investors may overreact to available information when experiencing imbalances in their circadian cycle.

Once bitten, twice shy: The power of personal experiences in risk taking
Steffen Andersen, Tobin Hanspal & Kasper Meisner Nielsen
Journal of Financial Economics, June 2019, Pages 97-117


We study whether personal experiences are so powerful that they make individuals actively shy away from risk. Our research design relies on portfolio decisions relating to inheritances, which alter the active decision from one of choosing to take risk to one of choosing to reduce risk. Experience derives from investments in banks that defaulted following the 2007-2009 financial crisis. We classify experiences into first-hand experiences, resulting from personal losses; second-hand experiences, from losses of family members; and third-hand experiences, from locations where banks defaulted. Our results demonstrate that experiences gained personally, not common shocks, make individuals shy away from risk.

Institutional Trading Around M&A Announcements
Eliezer Fich, Viktoriya Lantushenko & Clemens Sialm
NBER Working Paper, May 2019


Takeover targets often experience substantial share price appreciations around public announcements of mergers and acquisitions. We analyze hedge fund and mutual fund holdings around takeover announcements to assess the differences in investment strategies across institutions. Our results indicate that hedge funds in the aggregate increase their holdings of soon-to-be takeover targets by 7.2% during the quarter prior to the public announcement. Conversely, mutual funds reduce their equity holdings in impending targets by 3.0% during the quarter before M&A announcements and therefore potentially forgo profitable investment opportunities.

The job rating game: Revolving doors and analyst incentives
Elisabeth Kempf
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


Investment banks frequently hire analysts from rating agencies. While many argue that this "revolving door" creates captured analysts, it can also create incentives to improve accuracy. To study this issue, I construct an original data set, linking analysts to their career paths and the securitized finance ratings they issue. First, I show that accurate analysts are more frequently hired by underwriting investment banks. Second, I exploit two distinct sources of variation in the likelihood of being hired by a bank. Both indicate that, as this likelihood rises, analyst accuracy improves. The findings suggest policymakers should consider incentive effects alongside capture concerns.

Will the Market Fix the Market? A Theory of Stock Exchange Competition and Innovation
Eric Budish, Robin Lee & John Shim
NBER Working Paper, May 2019


Will the market adopt new market designs that address the negative aspects of high-frequency trading? This paper builds a theoretical model of stock exchange competition, shaped by institutional and regulatory details of the U.S. equities market. We show that under the status quo market design: (i) trading behavior across the many distinct exchanges is as if there is just a single "synthesized" exchange; (ii) as a result, trading fees are perfectly competitive; but (iii) exchanges capture and maintain significant economic rents from the sale of "speed technology" (i.e., proprietary data feeds and co-location) - arms for the high-frequency trading arms race. Using a variety of data, we document seven stylized empirical facts that suggest that the model captures the essential economics of how U.S. stock exchanges compete and make money in the modern era. We then use the model to examine the private and social incentives for market design innovation. We find that while the social returns to market design innovation are large, the private returns are much smaller and may be negative, especially for incumbents that derive rents in the status quo from selling speed technology.

Do personal connections improve sovereign credit ratings?
Patrycja Klusak, John Thornton & Yurtsev Uymaz
Finance Research Letters, forthcoming


In a large sample of sovereign debt issues, we show that a personal connection between senior executives in credit rating agencies and leading politicians in the sovereign results in an improved rating. A test on bond yields suggest that the personal connection reflects a favorable treatment of the issuer.

Credit Default Swaps and Analyst Optimism
Suresh Govindaraj et al.
Rutgers Working Paper, April 2019


This paper investigates whether and how the initiation of Credit Default Swaps (CDS) trading affects analyst optimism. First, we document that analyst forecasts become less optimistic after the initiation of CDS trading. Second, we find that the dampening effect of CDS on analyst optimism is stronger for firms with negative news and for firms with poorer financial performance or higher leverage, supporting a "correction effect" of CDS on non-strategic optimism. Moreover, we find that CDS also has a "disciplining effect" on strategic optimism that arises from incentives to cultivate relation with management or to please institutional investors. Overall, our evidence shows that the CDS market not only provides important information for analysts, but also alters analysts' reporting incentives.

Idea Sharing and the Performance of Mutual Funds
Julien Cujean
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


I develop an equilibrium model to explain why few mutual fund managers consistently outperform, even though many have strong informational advantages. The key ingredient is that managers obtain investment ideas through idea sharing. Idea sharing improves statistical significance of alpha through increased price informativeness. But it also causes better informed managers to take larger positions, which makes their alpha noisier - although a significant fraction of managers builds strong informational advantages, statistical significance and persistence of alpha concentrate in underperforming funds. I argue that in-house development of ideas cannot explain these facts.


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