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CEO Power over the Board, Nontransient Investor Ownership, and Risk Taking --An Employment Security Perspective

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Recognizing that CEOs are less capable of diversifying their employment risks than shareholders who could diversify their investment risks through portfolio investments, agency theory assumes that CEOs tend to be

Recognizing that CEOs are less capable of diversifying their employment risks than shareholders who could diversify their investment risks through portfolio investments, agency theory assumes that CEOs tend to be risk averse compared with shareholders. Based on this assumption, agency theory scholars suggest that to align the risk preference of CEOs with that of shareholders, CEOs need to be closely monitored and have less power. SEC regulators have been adopting the suggestion and accordingly CEO power has been reduced in the past decades. However, the empirical results are mixed and cannot provide solid support for the suggestion that reducing CEO power could lead the CEO to take more risks.

Considering that managerial risk taking is an important issue in strategic management research and agency theory has been widely adopted in academia and business worlds, it is imperative to clarify the mechanism behind the relationship between CEO power and risk taking. My study aims to fill this research gap. In this study I follow agency theory to take an employment security perspective and fully consider how CEOs’ concern about employment security is affected by their power and ownership structure to enrich the understanding of the effects of CEO power and ownership structure on risk taking. I fine-tune the key concept CEO power into the CEO power over board and introduce a key aspect of ownership structure - nontransient investor ownership. I further suggest that CEO power over board and nontransient investor ownership affect CEOs’ employment security and the resulting CEO risk taking. In addition, I consider a set of industry and firm characteristics as the boundary conditions for the effects of CEO power and nontransient investor ownership on CEO risk-taking. This set of industry and firm characteristics include industry complexity, industry dynamism, industry munificence and firm slack.

I test my theory using a large-scale, multi-year sample of U.S. publicly listed S&P 1500 firms between 2001 and 2017. My main hypotheses about the effects of CEO power over board and nontransient investor ownership on CEO risk taking receive strong support.

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Date Created
  • 2019