The cash hoarding problem and some solutions

Larry Ribstein —  5 October 2011

As I discussed last May, corporations are hoarding cash.  According to today’s WSJ, they’re still hoarding cash.

Mira Ganor writes, in Agency Costs in the Era of Economic Crisis, that it could be about CEO compensation. Here’s the abstract:

This Article reports results of an empirical study that suggests that the current economic crisis has changed managerial behavior in the US in a way that may impede economic recovery. The study finds a strong, statistically significant and economically meaningful, positive correlation between the CEO total annual compensation and corporate cash holdings during the economic crisis, in the years 2008-2010. This correlation did not exist in comparable magnitudes in prior years. The finding supports the criticism against current managerial compensation practices and suggests that high CEO compensation increases managerial risk aversion in times of crisis and contributes to the growing money hoarding practices that worsen an economic slowdown. One possible explanation for the empirical findings is that during the last economic crisis, managerial risk seeking transformed into risk aversion that stalls economic recovery. The study has implications for the discussion on managerial pay arrangements and the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act concerning say-on-pay

Whatever the cause, as I wrote last May there is a possible solution for cash hoarding (and possibly a better way to deal with agency costs generally), at least for some types of firms:

As I’ve pointed out in numerous articles (e.g.) and in my Rise of the Uncorporation, the uncorporation replaces often-ineffective corporate-type disciplines like fiduciary duties and shareholder voting with financial discipline centered on debt and distributions, which restricts the amount of cash managers have to play with.

And the underuse of the uncorporate form itself comes down to another problem:  the corporate tax.

Larry Ribstein


Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law

One response to The cash hoarding problem and some solutions


    Cash hoarding has nothing to do with income taxes.

    Robert Dugger:

    Structural trap is evidence of political decay
    The political scientist Samuel Huntington first identified the problem of political decay in 1965. He offered
    it as an answer to why the developing world was modernizing economically but reverting to
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    Political decay occurs when political systems fail to adjust to changing circumstances. There
    is something like a law of the conservation of institutions. Human beings are rule-following
    animals by nature; they are born to conform to the social norms they see around them, and
    they entrench those rules with often transcendent meaning and value. When the surrounding
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    entrenched stakeholders who oppose any fundamental change