Essays on CEO behavior

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University of Alabama Libraries

This dissertation is composed of two essays that examine the feedback between firm financial characteristics and CEO behavioral tendencies. The first essay examines the relationship between CEOs’ facial width-to-height ratios (fWHR) and firms’ financial policies. Greater facial width is considered to be a masculine physical trait and has been linked to increased aggressive behavior and greater risk tolerance. I find that high-fWHR CEOs pursue more aggressive financial policies, including increased leverage and reduced cash holdings. Additionally, I find that high-fWHR CEOs tend to maintain smaller ownership shares of their firms, suggesting that these CEOs place relatively lower importance on signaling alignment with shareholders. I also show that acquisition attempts led by high-fWHR CEOs are more likely to be unsuccessful. Despite that these managerial characteristics in high-fWHR CEOs are not offset by greater profitability, I find that high-fWHR CEOs do not face a greater risk of forced turnover. In the second essay, I examine CEOs’ option-exercise decisions. The retention of deep in-the-money stock options has been ascribed to managers’ overconfidence in their ability to increase firm value. I find that this behavior is predicted by non-private firm financial information and macroeconomic conditions. Specifically, managers are more likely to retain deep in-the-money stock options when their firms are more profitable, less financially constrained, and have greater growth opportunities. This behavior is also more frequently exhibited during periods of macroeconomic expansion. Given its apparent reactionary nature, this behavior seems to be a reflection of managers’ optimism regarding the near-term financial prospects of their firms and is not necessarily attributable to managerial overconfidence.

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