Essays on state pension plans and trading in bankrupt stocks




Zhang, Hongxian

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This dissertation consists of two essays on suboptimal behavior of financial markets. Essay I examines stocks of bankrupt firms after the court confirms they will receive nothing. While trading volume is negligible for most worthless stocks, some have sizable trading volume, indicating investor ignorance of their zero intrinsic value. Prices respond irrationally to news in several instances, and they are higher for more liquid worthless stocks, which are more likely to attract uninformed investors. Our analysis includes the first empirical examination of short-selling in bankrupt firms. Short-covering cannot account for the anomalous price and trading volume. Short-sellers are active in these stocks and play a useful role in pushing prices down toward intrinsic value. Essay II examines the effects of state corruption as well as political and governance factors on U.S. public pension funds. We find that pension funds in states with more corruption have lower performance; a one standard deviation increase in corruption is associated with a decrease in annual returns between 17 and 21 basis points, and this relation is robust to state-level and pension-level fixed effects. Pensions located in more corrupt jurisdictions also invest a larger fraction of their assets in equities. We find that having a new treasurer decreases the negative effects of corruption, suggesting that frequent changes in administrations are beneficial in corrupt jurisdictions. Governance-related variables and political affiliation variables are by themselves not significantly related to pension returns, although these variables are associated with differences in asset allocation.


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State pension plans, Bankrupt stocks, Financial markets