Legal Origins and the Financial Conservatism of Private Firms

  •  Hongzhong Fan    
  •  Mirza Nouman Ali Talib    
  •  Pan Chen    


Following the literature of corporate law and finance, our study emphasizes on differences of legal origins and their laws influencing the capital structures of the private firms following suboptimal conservative policies. The countries considered in each legal origin represents common law countries (UK, Australia, India, Pakistan and Thailand) and Roman backed civil law countries (Japan, South Korea, Germany) respectively. The time series considered for the study is 2000-2017. The findings provide that the conservative private firms are smaller in size with less investments but are positively related with profitability in both legal origins. However, the dividend payouts and non-debt tax shields have significant positive relation with conservative policies in civil law countries. It shows that the presence of minority shareholders’ protection law in civil law countries directs the firms to pay more dividends which may also help them in reducing agency costs. We further exhibit that, before financial crises of 2008, the conservative firms in both legal origins are less directed towards dividends, especially in common law countries. Nevertheless, private conservative firms of civil law countries are more inclined towards dividend payouts after financial crises. The study implicates that the difference of laws in legal origins affect the capital structures of the conservative private firms. It further provides that because of the less effective credit markets, private firms may also be forced to adopt conservative policies in civil law countries but may also have less agency problems due to high probability of having dividend payouts.

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