Learning about CEO Ability

From Yihui Pan, Tracy Yue Wang, and Michael Weisbach:

When there is uncertainty about a CEO’s quality, news about the firm causes rational investors to update their expectation of the firm’s value for two reasons: Updates occur because of the direct effect of the news, and also because the news can cause an updated assessment of the CEO’s quality, affecting expectations of his ability to generate future cash flows. As a CEO’s quality becomes known more precisely over time, the latter effect becomes smaller, leading to a lower stock price reaction to news, and hence lowering the stock return volatility. Thus, in addition to uncertainty about fundamentals, uncertainty about CEO quality is also a source of stock return volatility, which decreases over a CEO’s tenure as the market learns the CEO’s quality more accurately. We formally model this idea, and evaluate its implications using a large sample of CEO turnovers in U.S. public firms. Our estimates indicate that there is statistically significant and economically important market learning about CEO ability, even for CEOs whose appointments appear to occur for exogenous reasons. Also consistent with the learning model is the fact that learning is faster in earlier periods than in later periods, and learning is faster when there is higher ex ante uncertainty about the CEO’s ability and more transparency about the firm’s prospects. Overall, uncertainty about management quality appears to be an important source of stock return volatility.

I look forward to seeing future work that they describe at the very end of the paper:

The estimates indicate that there is substantial variation in management quality, and that this variation leads to meaningful differences in firm profitability and valuations. Exploring the extent of the effect of management quality differences on valuation would be an important topic for future research.

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About ozidar

I'm an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a Faculty Research Fellow at National Bureau of Economic Research. You can follow me on twitter @omzidar. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/owen.zidar/index.html
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