Agency Costs and Corporate Governance Mechanisms: Evidence for Uk Firms

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Agency costs and corporate governance mechanisms: Evidence for UK firms

Chrisostomos Florackis and Aydin Ozkan*
University of York, UK

Abstract
In this paper, we aim to extend the empirical literature on the determinants of agency costs by using a large sample of UK listed firms. To do so, we employ two alternative proxies for agency costs: the ratio of total sales to total assets (asset turnover) and the ratio of selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) to total sales. In our analysis, we control for the influence of several internal governance mechanisms or devices that were ignored by previous studies. Also, we examine the potential interactions between these mechanisms and firm growth opportunities in determining agency costs. Our results reveal that the capital structure characteristics of firms, namely bank debt and debt maturity, constitute two of the most important corporate governance devices for UK companies. Also, managerial ownership, managerial compensation and ownership concentration seem to play an important role in mitigating agency costs. Finally, our results suggest that the impact exerted by internal governance mechanisms on agency costs varies with firms’ growth opportunities.

JEL classification: G3; G32 Keywords: Agency costs; Growth opportunities; Internal Corporate Governance Mechanisms.

*

Corresponding author. Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK. Tel.: + 44 (1904) 434672. Fax: + 44 (1904) 433759. E-mail: ao5@york.ac.uk. We thank seminar participants at University of York, and the 2004 European Finance Association Meetings for helpful comments and suggestions.

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1. Introduction
Following Jensen and Meckling (1976), agency relations within the firm and costs associated with them have been extensively investigated in the corporate finance literature. There is a great deal of empirical work providing evidence that financial decisions, investment decisions and, hence, firm value are significantly affected by the presence of agency conflicts and the extent of agency costs. The focus of these studies has been the impact of the expected agency costs on the performance of firms.1 Moreover, the implicit assumption is that, in imperfect capital markets, agency costs arising from conflicts between firms’ claimholders exist and the value of firms decreases if the market expects that these costs are likely to be realised. It is also assumed that there are internal and external corporate governance mechanisms that can help reduce the expected costs and their negative impact on firm value. For example, much of prior work on the ownership and performance relationship relies on the view that managerial ownership can align the interests of managers and shareholders and hence one would observe a positive impact exerted by managerial shareholdings on the performance of firms. The positive impact is argued to be due to the decrease in the expected costs of the agency conflict between managers and shareholders. Despite much valuable insights provided by this strand of literature, however, only very few studies directly tackle the measurement issue of the principal variable of interest, namely agency costs. Notable exceptions are Ang et al. (2000) and Sign and Davidson (2003), which investigate the empirical determinants of agency costs and focus on the role of debt and ownership structure in mitigating agency problems for the US firms. In doing so, they use two alternative proxies for agency costs: the ratio of total sales to total assets (asset turnover) and the ratio of selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) to total sales. In line with the findings of prior research they provide evidence for the view that managerial ownership aligns the interests of managers and shareholders and, hence, reduces agency costs in general. However, there is no consensus on the role of debt in mitigating such problems and associated...
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