Finance is a featured research topic at Harvard Business School.
Our intellectual roots are based in a long line of scholars from Robert Merton whose collaborative work on risk management and option pricing won him the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1997, to John Lintner who co-created the Capital Asset Pricing Model and made significant contributions to dividend policy, and Gordon Donaldson whose work helped shape the field of corporate finance. We strive to understand how managers and firms make value-enhancing decisions; and how financial institutions, markets, and instruments contribute to this process. Our approach to research is distinguished by its unique combination of theory, empirical analysis, mathematical modeling, and field observations at companies. 
  1. Husk Power

    In late 2013, Husk Power Systems found itself falling further and further behind plan. The founding CEO had decided to resign. His co-founder is faced with the decision of quitting his corporate job in the US to head to India and help form a new management team. Husk is an Indian startup founded in 2007 with the goal of global rural electrification. The company has decided to pivot from operating biomass gasification plants towards developing solar microgrids in India and East Africa.

    Keywords: Plant-Based Agribusiness; Business Model; Business Startups; Energy Generation; Renewable Energy; Social Entrepreneurship; Foreign Direct Investment; International Finance; Globalized Markets and Industries; Crime and Corruption; Employee Relationship Management; Independent Innovation and Invention; Employment; Leadership Style; Leading Change; Management Practices and Processes; Management Style; Management Succession; Management Skills; Emerging Markets; Social Psychology; Culture; Business Strategy; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Energy Industry; Green Technology Industry; Utilities Industry; Africa; India; United States;


    Lassiter, Joseph B., III, and Sid Misra. "Husk Power." Harvard Business School Case 815-023. (Revised August 2014.) View Details
  2. Making Room for the Baby Boom: Senior Living

    Tom Alperin's National Development has purchased a building site in affluent Wellesley, MA, and is in the process of deciding whether to build apartments, a combination of independent living and assisted living units for seniors, or perhaps even higher acuity facilities. The case describes several issues for the continuum of senior care alternatives for residents and developers. What motivates seniors to leave their homesteads for much smaller spaces? How can they afford to do so? What are the physical as well as operational challenges for operators when serving the different levels of acuity? The case also describes what zoning issues may be faced by developers who seek to build in attractive but challenging neighborhoods. Furthermore, how can a successful operator branch out into new businesses? When should the operator form joint ventures to help them achieve their strategic ends? Analytical tools discussed include: development metrics, impact of financing on projects, as well as analytical methods to forecast market demand.

    Keywords: Senior Living; Assisted Living; Independent Living; Property; Finance; Real Estate Industry; Boston; Massachusetts; United States;


    Wu, Charles F., and Joseph Beyer. "Making Room for the Baby Boom: Senior Living." Harvard Business School Case 215-003, July 2014. View Details
  3. What Drives Financial Complexity? A Look into the Retail Market for Structured Products

    By focusing on the highly innovative retail market for structured products, we investigate the drivers of financial complexity. We perform a lexicographic analysis of the term sheets of 55,000 retail structured products issued in 17 European countries since 2002. We observe that financial complexity has been steadily increasing, even after the recent financial crisis, and that financial complexity is more prevalent among distributors with a less sophisticated investor base. We then compute the fair value of a representative sample of products and show that the hidden markup in a product is an increasing function of its complexity. Finally, we show that financial complexity increases when competition intensifies. These findings are consistent with financial institutions strategically using complexity to mitigate competition.

    Keywords: Complexity; Finance; Retail Industry;

  4. Patent Trolls: Evidence from Targeted Firms

    We provide theoretical and empirical evidence on the evolution and impact of non-practicing entities (NPEs) in the intellectual property space. Heterogeneity in innovation, given a cost of commercialization, results in NPEs that choose to act as "patent trolls" that chase operating firms' innovations even if those innovations are not clearly infringing on the NPEs' patents. We support these predictions using a novel, large dataset of patents targeted by NPEs. We show that NPEs on average target firms that are flush with cash (or have just had large positive cash shocks). Furthermore, NPEs target firm profits arising from exogenous cash shocks unrelated to the allegedly infringing patents. We next show that NPEs target firms irrespective of the closeness of those firms' patents to the NPEs', and that NPEs typically target firms that are busy with other (non-IP related) lawsuits or are likely to settle. Lastly, we show that NPE litigation has a negative real impact on the future innovative activity of targeted firms.

    Keywords: Patent trolls; NPEs; innovation; patents; Patents; Ethics; Lawsuits and Litigation; Innovation and Invention; Corporate Finance;


    Cohen, Lauren, Umit G. Gurun, and Scott Duke Kominers. "Patent Trolls: Evidence from Targeted Firms." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-002, July 2014. (Revised August 2014.) View Details
  5. Financial Policy at Apple, 2013 (A)

    By the end of 2013, Apple had $137 billion dollars in cash and marketable securities. This case explores how companies can generate such large amounts of cash and how and if they should distribute it to shareholders, especially in the face of shareholder pressure. In the process, students are asked to undertake fundamental financial analyses, including ratio analysis, a financial forecast, and a cash distribution analysis.

    Keywords: Apple; Steve Jobs; forecast; Forecasting; Forecasting and Prediction; shareholder activism; share repurchase; dividends; Financial ratios; preferred shares; cash distribution; Corporate Finance; Borrowing and Debt; Financial Management; Financial Strategy; Technology Industry; Consumer Products Industry; United States; Republic of Ireland;


    Desai, Mihir A., and Elizabeth A. Meyer. "Financial Policy at Apple, 2013 (A)." Harvard Business School Case 214-085, June 2014. View Details
  6. Southeastern Asset Management Challenges Buyout at Dell

    In late 2012, Michael Dell wants to take Dell Inc., the company he founded, private. Mr. Dell believes that the successful company's transformation from a personal computer (PC) manufacturer to an enterprise solutions and services provider (ESS) is dependent on going private without the short-term results scrutiny public companies face. He and a private equity firm, Silver Lake Partners, have made an offer for the company, which Dell Inc.'s board has accepted. The deal requires the vote of a majority of shareholders. Southeastern Asset Management, an investment firm, and Dell Inc.'s second largest shareholder behind Mr. Dell strongly oppose the deal because the offer is well below what Southeastern believes is Dell Inc.'s intrinsic value. Southeastern, along with activist investor Carl Icahn, wage a campaign to defeat the go-private deal and propose a leveraged recapitalization as an alternative. On several occasions it appears that the deal will be voted down by shareholders, but rule changes made by Dell Inc.'s Board eventually pave the way for Mr. Dell to take the eponymous company private—for a price only slightly higher than the original bid. The case describes the reasons why Mr. Dell wants to take Dell Inc. private, why Southeastern and Icahn oppose the deal, the specifics of both the Dell/Silver Lake bid and of Southeastern's/Icahn's leveraged recapitalization proposals, and the events that took place.

    Keywords: Leveraged Buyout Transaction; leveraged buyouts; leveraged recapitalization; management buyout; Dell, Inc.; hedge fund; corporate accountability; corporate governance; corporate governance theory; valuation; valuation ratios; valuation methodologies; board of directors; boards of directors; Carl Icahn; computer industry; computer services industries; proxy contest; proxy battles; proxy fight; proxy advisor; Financial Accounting; financial analysis; Financial ratios; corporate finance; finance; Corporate Accountability; Corporate Governance; Corporate Finance; Computer Industry; United States;


    Healy, Paul, Suraj Srinivasan, and Aldo Sesia. "Southeastern Asset Management Challenges Buyout at Dell." Harvard Business School Case 114-015, June 2014. (Revised August 2014.) View Details
  7. Comparing the Cash Policies of Public and Private Firms

    I document that public U.S. firms hold twice as much cash as large privately held firms, a surprising finding that is robust to three alternative identification strategies: matching, within-firm variation, and instrumental variable. Public firms' greater access to capital accounts for about one-quarter of the difference. The remainder can be explained by differences in the extent to which public and private firms engage in market timing in response to misvaluation shocks. I show that the risk of misvaluation induces public firms to raise capital and accumulate cash reserves when they perceive their equity to be overvalued, resulting in greater demand for precautionary cash holdings.

    Keywords: finance; equity; Private companies; Corporate cash hoarding; Precautionary motives; Market timing; Share issuance; IPOs; Private Ownership; Cash; Market Timing; Corporate Finance; Public Ownership; United States;


    Farre-Mensa, Joan. "Comparing the Cash Policies of Public and Private Firms." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-095, April 2014. View Details
  8. Payout Policy

    We survey the literature on payout policy, with a particular emphasis on developments in the last two decades. Of the traditional motives of why firms pay out (agency, signaling, and taxes), the cross-sectional empirical evidence is most persuasive in favor of agency considerations. Studies centered on the May 2003 dividend tax cut confirm that differences in the taxation of dividends and capital gains have only a second-order impact on setting payout policy. None of the three traditional explanations can account for secular changes in how payouts were made over the last 30 years, during which repurchases have replaced dividends as the prime vehicle for corporate payouts. Other payout motives such as changes in compensation practices and management incentives are better able to explain the observed variation in payout patterns over time than the traditional motives. The most recent evidence suggests that further insights can be gained from viewing payout decisions as an integral part of a firm's larger financial ecosystem, with important implications for financing, investment, and risk management.

    Keywords: finance; investment; Finance;


    Farre-Mensa, Joan, Roni Michaely, and Martin Schmalz. "Payout Policy." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-096, April 2014. View Details
  9. Attracting Long-Term Investors Through Integrated Thinking and Reporting: A Clinical Study of a Biopharmaceutical Company

    Faced with a large percentage of investors that chase short-term returns, companies could benefit by attracting investors with longer-term horizons and incentives that are more consistent with the long-term strategy of the company. The managers of most companies take their investor base as a "given" that cannot be changed through their actions or words. Using the case of Shire, a biopharmaceutical company with a strong commitment to the goals of improving the safety of its products and the reliability of its supply chain, the authors of this article suggest that companies have the ability and the means to change their investor base in ways that are consistent with their strategy. One of the most promising ways of attracting such investors is integrated reporting, which provides companies with a means of credibly communicating the commitment of its top leadership to diffusing integrated thinking across the organization and to building strong relationships with important external stakeholders. In the case of Shire, both a commitment to integrated thinking and the adoption of integrated reporting appear to have helped the company attract longer-term investors, which in turn has strengthened management's confidence to carry out its strategy of stakeholder engagement and investment.

    Keywords: Investing; asset management; long-term investing; Short-termism; sustainability; integrated reporting; leadership; Leadership & Corporate Accountability; pharmaceutical industry; Pharmaceuticals; Leadership; Integrated Corporate Reporting; Investment; Business and Stakeholder Relations; Corporate Finance; Biotechnology Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry;


    Knauer, Andrew, and George Serafeim. "Attracting Long-Term Investors Through Integrated Thinking and Reporting: A Clinical Study of a Biopharmaceutical Company." Journal of Applied Corporate Finance 26, no. 2 (Spring 2014): 57–64. View Details
  10. Financial Repression in the European Sovereign Debt Crisis

    By the end of 2013, the share of government debt held by the domestic banking sectors of Eurozone countries was more than twice its 2007 level. We show that this type of increasing reliance on the domestic banking sector for absorbing government bonds generates a crowding out of corporate lending. For a given domestic firm, new debt is less likely to be a loan—i.e., the loan supply contracts—when local banks have purchased more domestic sovereign debt and when that debt is risky (as measured by CDS spreads). These effects are most pronounced in the period following the second Greek bailout in early 2010.

    Keywords: Credit Cycles; Sovereign debt; Financial Repression; Sovereign Finance; Greece;


    Ivashina, Victoria, and Bo Becker. "Financial Repression in the European Sovereign Debt Crisis." Working Paper, April 2014. View Details
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