Paper Spotlight: Skilled Labor Risk and Corporate Policies

Yue Qiu

Tracy Yue Wang

Human capital has become an increasingly important asset for firms operating in many industries, not just in the more technological areas. Competition for talent is increasing, prompting the questions regarding, first, the attraction and, second, retention of skilled labor. Firms face labor mobility risk, especially in the case of skilled labor, which can hamper firm operations along many different dimensions. In the paper titled “Skilled Labor Risk and Corporate Policies,” Yue Qiu and Tracy Yue Wang examine firms’ skilled labor risk, defined as the risk of failing to attract and retain skilled labor, and the subsequent impact on corporate policies. The first task in the paper is measuring, at the firm-year level, firms’ skilled labor risk which can then be used to investigate its importance to firm operations. The authors propose a skilled labor risk based on the intensity of firms’ discussions of this particular type of risk in their 10-K filings. The first round of results confirm that the measure proposed by the authors captures firms’ concerns about the mobility of their skilled labor. For example, firms discuss more about the skilled labor risk in their 10-Ks when they experience or anticipate turnovers of productive skilled labor and when their headquarter states introduce laws that influence the mobility of skilled labor. The paper then uses this measure to examine firms’ compensation policies. Evidence suggests that firms’ compensation policies are sensitive to the skilled labor risk: firms pay a significant premium to skilled labor and structure the compensation more towards incentive pay when they are concerned about skilled labor mobility. This evidence is consistent with the view that skilled labor’s mobility empowers workers relative to shareholders. Furthermore, important corporate policies such as financial leverage, cash holdings, and M&As also interact with skilled labor risk. Overall, these results show how skilled labor risk can engender a profound impact on many important aspects of corporate finance, especially in the case of the so-called “new firm,” operating in the technological fields.

Spotlight by Andrew Ellul
Photos courtesy of 
Yue Qiu and Tracy Yue Wang

Winners of the RCFS Awards

The winners of the annual RCFS Awards were announced at the virtual Awards Reception on May 25 as part of the SFS Cavalcade. We are pleased to share the winners:

Best Paper Award
“How Do Laws and Institutions Affect Recovery Rates for Collateral?”
Hans Degryse, Vasso Ioannidou, José María Liberti, and Jason Sturgess
Prize: $10,000

Referee of the Year
Jack Liebersohn
Prize: $1000

Rising Scholar Award
“Tough Love: The Effects of Debt Contract Design on Firms’ Performance”
Ioannis Spyridopoulos
Prize: $5000

Congratulations to all our award winners!

Tuesday at the Cavalcade

The first paper presentations of SFS Cavalcade 2021 begin at 11am today.

1:15pm Panel Honoring Craig W. Holden

3:45pm RCFS Keynote by Amir Sufi

4:30pm Presentation of Awards

5pm Virtual Reception with rooms hosted by MIT:
Asset Pricing hosted by Lawrence Schmidt
Corporate Finance hosted by Egor Matveyev
Behavioral Finance hosted by Eben Lazarus
ESG hosted by Ed Golding
FinTech and Big Data hosted by Maryam Farboodi

For more information, visit the conference website.

Cavalcade Begins Today!

SFS Cavalcade North America 2021 kicks off today with a Keynote by Chair Ulrike Malmendier at 5pm. A virtual Welcome Reception will follow with rooms hosted by MIT:

Asset Pricing hosted by Leonid Kogan
Corporate Finance hosted by Antoinette Schoar
Behavioral Finance hosted by Taha Choukhmane
Financial Policy, COVID-19, and Beyond hosted by Deborah Lucas
Macro Finance hosted by Emil Verner

For more information, visit the conference website.