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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays in Empirical Finance

  • Author(s): Patel, Nimesh
  • Advisor(s): Welch, Ivo I.
  • et al.

This dissertation consists of three chapters. In the first chapter, I investigate how political spending by corporations responds to regulatory concerns and if it is associated with improved firm value. Using the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster as an exogenous shock to the difficulty of obtaining offshore oil drilling permits, I show that offshore oil firms spent more money hiring lobbyists in order to influence the permitting process. In contrast, the evidence of a response through campaign contributions is weak. The lobbying spending was associated with both a higher probability of permit approval and faster time to approval. Permit approvals had a five-day cumulative abnormal return of 0.69% after the disaster. In particular, offshore firms hired more lobbyists with prior-employment connections to Congressmen or Federal agencies with oil industry oversight. My results show that corporate governance issues may be second-order in this setting and that lobbying may have a real impact on regulator decisions and a positive effect on firm value.

In the second chapter, I establish a previously unknown fact about the value of firms engaging in lobbying. Despite evidence that firms respond to specific opportunities or concerns through lobbying spending, most corporations lobby persistently. I show that firms engaging in lobbying spending earn higher returns relative to non-lobbying firms in response to elections that result in a unified government (White House and Congress controlled by the same political party). In contrast, lobbying firms earn lower returns relative to non-lobbying firms in response to elections that result in a divided government (White House and Congress controlled by different political parties, or Congressional division). The results show that the balance of power within the government has an effect on the cross-section of stock returns. Disentangling expected return and abnormal return explanations for these results is an interesting area for future research.

In the third chapter (with Ivo Welch), we investigate extended abnormal rates of return for S&P 500 index changes in a comprehensive 1979-2013 sample. The evidence suggests that the short-window portfolio announcement returns that did not revert in the 1980s have fully reverted in the 2000s. The reversion was a portfolio effect, not an individual stock effect.

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