Research Summary Activist hedge funds are the new breed of corporate raiders, yet we know little about how the management and board of target firms respond to activist investors. Using a behavioral perspective, we propose that an activist's reputation for being confrontational conveys information to the target company as to what they are likely to encounter in an activist campaign. To avoid the potential adverse consequences of engaging in such a contest, we propose and find that target companies are more likely to settle with an activist known for being confrontational. Our study contributes to corporate governance research by providing insight into the importance of the social context surrounding activist campaigns and the role of reputation in influencing how companies respond to activist investors. Managerial Summary Given that hedge fund activism is having a major impact on firm's strategic and financial decision-making, it is important to understand how these activist investors influence companies. An activist campaign is a highly disruptive event leading to considerable ambiguity and uncertainty as to what is likely to transpire. Given this information void, our study finds that the board and management respond based on the reputation of the activist investor that has taken a stake in the company. That activist investors with a reputation for being hostile are more successful may be a defensive response on the part of management in order to avoid the potential adverse consequences of a hostile campaign. This has implications for corporate governance and the fiduciary duty of the board.
We study how ethical behaviour by firms leads to ethical reputation building. Based on our in-depth studies of two firms in India and Zimbabwe that resisted corruption and survived for extended time periods, we propose that in addition to behaving ethically, firms need to elicit favourable responses from a critical mass of stakeholders from both strong and weak tie networks in order for their ethical reputations to diffuse quickly and widely. We find that the strength of stakeholder responses to ethical behaviour is moderated by firm level and contextual factors: high status affiliations, industry characteristics, the nature of corruption resisted, the presence of a plural press, the potential for collective action, and the presence of an independent judiciary. These antecedents also influence the pattern of stakeholder resource commitments that firms are able to enjoy as a result of having built ethical reputations.
Journal of Business Ethics
We analyze whether audit partners suffered damage to their professional reputations with the demise of Zhongtianqin (ZTQ), formerly the largest audit firm in China, after an audit failure enabled a major client, Yinguangxia (YGX), to fraudulently exaggerate its earnings in a high-profile scandal resembling the Andersen–Enron events in the US. This involves evaluating whether the reputational damage sustained by partners implicated in the scandal spreads to other partners in the same audit firm. We isolate whether impaired reputation impedes partners who were not complicit in the ZTQ–YGX events from attracting new clients or keeping existing ones. Our evidence implies that the market shares of these partners fell after ZTQ’s collapse, supporting that guiltless partners’ reputations were tarnished. We also find that these partners are less likely to be employed by reputable audit firms. The clients of these partners tend to have lower earnings response coefficients, implying that investors downgrade the perceived quality of their audits. Moreover, compared to a matched sample, the former ZTQ partners tend to charge lower audit fees after the firm’s collapse. Finally, we exploit the unique structure of ZTQ to provide evidence consistent with the prediction that the former partners from the branch that handled the YGX audits experienced worse damage to their reputations. In a setting with minimal auditor discipline stemming from civil litigation, our results lend support to the intuition that partners’ reputation concerns motivate them to protect audit quality by closely monitoring other partners in the firm.