Essays on Corporate Governance and Social Responsibility

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University of Alabama Libraries

In the first essay, we study whether the increasingly large and concentrated ownership stakes by passive investors influence shareholders’ activism in the form of shareholder proposals. We find a positive association between passive ownership and the total number of proposals initiated, proposals with different types of sponsors, the rate of proposal withdrawal, vote-for percentage, and finally 1-year abnormal returns following the annual meeting date at which time the proposals were put forth. To mitigate endogeneity concerns, we use the Russell reconstitution as an exogenous shock. Our findings highlight the ability and power that passive investors have to affect corporate policy by supporting fellow shareholder sponsored proposals.In the second essay, we investigate the effectiveness of shareholder voice. In 2017, “The Big Three” institutional investors launched campaigns to increase gender diversity on corporate boards. We estimate that their campaigns led firms to add at least 2.5 times as many female directors in 2019 as they had in 2016 and to promote female directors to key board positions. Firms increased female representation by relying less on managers’ existing networks to identify candidates and by placing less emphasis on candidates’ executive experience. Our results highlight index investors’ ability to influence firms’ governance structures and shareholder advocacy’s potential to expand women’s participation in corporate leadership more extensively than government mandates. In the third essay, we examine whether and how local religiosity has an impact on corporate attitude towards corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and how CSR activities directly impact firm value. Employing an extensive US sample from 1991 to 2015, we find that firms headquartered in more religious regions undertake a greater level of CSR activities. Furthermore, the CSR activities of firms located in highly religious regions are positively valued in the stock markets as we observe a positive association between CSR and Tobin’s Q for the companies that are headquartered in high religious regions. The association is stronger when firms are less visible to non-local investors. This study enriches the emerging literature on the influence of local cultural factors on corporate behavior and encourages future research on the various aspects of how the local environment impacts firms’ ethical behaviors.

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