Mathias Kronlund is an Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business. His primary research areas are empirical corporate finance and financial institutions, and his recent research focuses on corporate investment, payout policy, executive compensation, credit ratings, and mutual funds.

His research has been published in the leading academic journals Journal of Financial Economics and Review of Financial Studies, featured in media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, and has been frequently cited by both U.S. and European policymakers.

Prof. Kronlund holds a Ph.D. in Finance and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a Master of Science in industrial engineering from Aalto University in Finland. In his spare time, he enjoys triathlon, skiing, and performing choral music.

Current Publications:

The Real Effects of Share Repurchases
(with Heitor Almeida and Vyacheslav Fos)
Journal of Financial Economics, January 2016
[SSRN working paper version]

We employ a regression discontinuity design to identify the real effects of share repurchases on other firm outcomes. The probability of share repurchases that increase earnings per share (EPS) is sharply higher for firms that would have just missed the EPS forecast in the absence of the repurchase, when compared with firms that “just beat” the EPS forecast. We use this discontinuity to show that EPS-motivated repurchases are associated with reductions in employment and investment, and a decrease in cash holdings. Our evidence suggests that managers are willing to trade off investments and employment for stock repurchases that allow them to meet analyst EPS forecasts.

Reaching for Yield by Corporate Bond Mutual Funds
(with Jaewon Choi)
Review of Financial Studies, May 2018
[SSRN working paper version]

We examine “reaching for yield” in U.S. corporate bond mutual funds. We define reaching for yield as tilting portfolios toward bonds with yields higher than the benchmarks. We find that funds generate higher returns and attract more inflows when they reach for yield, especially in periods of low interest rates. Returns for high reaching-for-yield funds nevertheless tend to be negative on a risk-adjusted basis. Funds engage in rank-chasing behavior by reaching for yield, although these incentives are moderated by the illiquid nature of corporate bonds. High reaching-for-yield funds hold less cash and less liquid bonds, exacerbating redemption risks.

Contact information:

The University of Illinois, Gies College of Business
340 Wohlers Hall
1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, Illinois, 61820

Phone: (217) 244-2631
Email: kronlund@illinois.edu
Web: www.mathiaskronlund.com

SSRN Author Page

[CV,pdf]

Current Working Papers:

“Do Bond Issuers Shop for Favorable Credit Ratings?” [SSRN]
Revise&Resubmit at Management Science

This paper provides evidence of ratings shopping in the corporate bond market. By exploiting systematic differences in bias across agencies about any given firm’s bonds, I show that bonds are more likely to be rated by agencies with a positive bias—a pattern most notable among bonds that have only one rating. The paper also shows that issuers often delay less favorable ratings until after a bond is sold. Consistent with theoretical models of ratings shopping, these patterns are strongest among bonds that are complex to rate. Bonds with upward-biased ratings are more likely to be subsequently downgraded and default, but investors account for this bias and demand higher yields for these bonds.

“Sitting Bucks: Zero Returns in Fixed Income Funds” (with Jaewon Choi and Jimmy Ji Yeol Oh) [SSRN]
Solicited for dual submission to the Review of Financial Studies
[Conferences: World Symposium on Investment Research (2019), Kentucky Finance Conference (2019), Univ of Connecticut Finance Conference (2019), European Winter Finance Summit (2019), MFA (2019), CAFM (2018)]

Zero returns are highly common in fixed income funds: on over 30% of trading days, NAVs do not change. These extreme occurrences of no price moves are driven by high illiquidity of fund holdings, and further compounded by binding minimum ticks. This is particularly prevalent among municipal bond funds, where more than 85% of holdings do not trade on any given day. We show that for funds with a high prevalence of zero returns, NAVs are extremely stale, and future returns are easy to predict using past fund returns at the daily, weekly, and even monthly horizons. Investors exploit this phenomenon by responding to stale prices and more importantly, by withdrawing capital from overvalued funds holding illiquid securities, which can exacerbate the risk of fund runs, as investors can achieve a first-mover advantage by redeeming at overvalued NAVs. This happens at the expense of buy-and-hold investors, who lose from others opportunistically buying and selling at predictably incorrect prices. Our results reveal shortcomings in existing fair valuation methods that are supposed to solve this problem.

“Does Shareholder Scrutiny Affect Executive Compensation? Evidence from Say-on-Pay Voting” (with Shastri Sandy) [SSRN]
Featured on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance
[Conferences: SFS Cavalcade (2016), Young Scholars Finance Conference (2015), European Finance Association (2015), Paris December Finance Conference (2015), Northern Finance Association (2015), Financial Management Association (2014), Mid-Atlantic Research Conference (2014)]

We study whether shareholder scrutiny affects CEO pay. Our identification strategy exploits the fact that recent “say-on-pay” regulation allowed firms to hold votes every two or three years. Depending on their voting frequency, firms experience alternating years where scrutiny on compensation varies following a plausibly exogenous cyclical pattern. In vote-years, firms reduce salaries and golden parachutes, but compensate for these cuts by increasing less-scrutinized compensation such as pensions. Total pay is similar across vote and no-vote years, and pay-for-performance is not stronger in vote years. These results are most consistent with greater window-dressing of compensation in times when firms are subject to heightened shareholder scrutiny.

“Does Equity Compensation Cause Firms to Manage EPS? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity ” (with Xing Gao) [SSRN]
Awards: NFA 2018 Best Paper award
[Conferences: WFA (scheduled), FMA (2018), NFA (2018)]

Equity-based compensation causes increases in firms’ share count and depresses Earnings Per Share (EPS), which can give firms an incentive to raise EPS through repurchases or earnings management. This paper documents a causal relationship between equity-based pay and EPS management. Employing a regression discontinuity framework, we compare firms with “just-in-the-money” option exercises to firms with options that narrowly end up out-of-the-money. We find that firms engage in real- and accruals-based earnings management, but not repurchases, to boost EPS around these plausibly exogenous exercises. These effects are stronger when the increase in shares is larger, and apply only when earnings are positive.

“Out of Sight No More? The Effect of Fee Disclosures on 401(k) Investment Allocations” (with Veronika Pool, Clemens Sialm, and Irina Stefanescu) [SSRN]
[Conferences: SFS Cavalcade (scheduled), EFA (scheduled), ESMT Asset Management (scheduled), FMA (scheduled), Cherry Blossom (2019)]

We examine the effects of a 2012 regulatory reform of investment option disclosures on participants’ allocations across 401(k) plans funds. We show that participants became significantly more attentive to expense ratios and short-term performance after the reform. The results are stronger for plans with larger account balances and those that are non-unionized. Additionally, they are not driven by secular changes in investor attention or sponsor-initiated changes to the investment menu before the reform.

“Discouraging Corporate Savings” (with Hwanki Brian Kim and Woojin Kim) [SSRN]
[Conferences: BYU Red Rock (scheduled), FMA (scheduled), Korea Securities Association (2019)]

Corporations world over have amassed record levels of cash on their balance sheets. We study the effects of a unique tax reform in South Korea in 2015 that sought to stem the tide of corporate cash accumulation. Firms with shareholder’s equity above 50B Won, or that were part of larger business groups (Chaebol), had to pay a sur-tax of 10% on any earnings above a threshold that were saved rather than invested or paid out to shareholders. Employing a difference-in-difference design, we find that the treated firms cut cash savings and instead direct earnings mainly towards new investments, resulting in stronger revenue growth, as well as towards higher wage increases and shareholder payouts. We find no evidence of reduced profitability, suggesting that these marginal investments were profitable. An event study analysis shows that shareholders reacted positively to firms being subject to the surtax, implying that shareholders viewed benefits from discouraging savings to outweigh the costs from a potentially higher tax bill. These findings suggest that firms were underinvesting and saving excessively prior to the tax change.

Older Working Papers:

“The Market Reaction to Stock Split Announcements: Earnings Information After All” (with Alon Kalay) [SSRN]