Published Full Papers

Asset Allocation in Bankruptcy (with Shai Bernstein and Benjamin Iverson) [pdf] [Forthcoming, Journal of Finance
Abstract: This paper investigates the consequences of liquidation and reorganization on the allocation and subsequent utilization of assets in bankruptcy. We identify 129,000 bankrupt establishments and construct a novel dataset that tracks the occupancy and employment at real estate assets over time. Using the random assignment of judges to bankruptcy cases as a natural experiment that forces some firms into liquidation, we find that even after accounting for reallocation, the long-run utilization of assets of liquidated firms is lower relative to assets of reorganized firms. These effects are concentrated in thin markets with few potential users and in areas with low access to finance. These findings suggest that when search frictions are large, liquidation can lead to an inefficient allocation of assets in bankruptcy. 

Bankruptcy Spillovers (with Shai Bernstein, Xavier Giroud, and Benjamin Iverson) [pdf] [Forthcoming, Journal of Financial Economics]
Abstract: How do different bankruptcy approaches affect the local economy? Using U.S. Census microdata, we explore the spillover effects of reorganization and liquidation on geographically proximate firms. We exploit the random assignment of bankruptcy judges as a source of exogenous variation in the probability of liquidation. We find that employment declines substantially in the immediate neighborhood of the liquidated establishments, relative to reorganized establishments. The spillover effects are highly localized and concentrate in non-tradable and service sectors, consistent with a reduction in local consumer traffic and a decline in knowledge spillovers between firms. The evidence highlights the externalities that bankruptcy design can impose on non-bankrupt firms. 

Working Papers

Corruption and Firms: Evidence from Randomized Anti-corruption Audits in Brazil (with Mounu Prem) [pdf]
Abstract: We exploit spatial variation in randomized anti-corruption audits related to government procurement contracts in Brazil to assess how corruption affects resource allocation, firm performance, and the local economy. After an anti-corruption crackdown, regions experience more entrepreneurship, improved access to finance, and higher levels of economic activity. This is inconsistent with corruption acting as "grease in the wheel." We find that two channels explain these facts: allocation of resources to less efficient firms, and distortions in government dependent firms. Using firms involved in corrupt business with the municipality, i.e. "corrupt firms," we find that the second channel is more important. Difference in difference estimation suggests that, after audits, the performance of corrupt firms improves relative to a similar set of unaffected firms. Corrupt firms invest more, increase borrowing and leverage, reallocate labor inside the firm, restructure the organizational design by increasing hierarchical layers, rely less on government contracts, and grow faster. Our findings provide novel micro-evidence on why corruption acts as an institutional failure that is detrimental to firm performance and economic growth. 

Who Creates New Firms When Local Opportunities Arise? (with Shai Bernstein, Davide Malacrino, and Tim McQuade) [pdf
Abstract: New firm formation is a critical driver of job creation, and an important contributor to the responsiveness of the economy to aggregate shocks. In this paper we examine the characteristics of the individuals who become entrepreneurs when local opportunities arise due to an increase in local demand. We identify local demand shocks by linking fluctuations in global commodity prices to municipality level agricultural endowments in Brazil. We find that the firm creation response is almost entirely driven by young and skilled individuals, as measured by their level of experience, education, and past occupations involving creativity, problem-solving and managerial roles. In contrast, we find no such response within the same municipalities among skilled, yet older individuals, highlighting the importance of lifecycle considerations. These responsive individuals are younger and more skilled than the average entrepreneur in the population. The entrepreneurial response of young individuals is larger in municipalities with better access to finance, and in municipalities with more skilled human capital. These results highlight how the characteristics of the local population can have a significant impact on the entrepreneurial responsiveness of the economy.  

Patronage and Selection in Public Sector Organizations (with Edoardo Teso and Mounu Prem) [pdf]
Abstract: In all modern bureaucracies, politicians retain some discretion in public employment decisions, which may lead to frictions in the selection process if political connections substitute for individual competence. Relying on detailed matched employer-employee data on the universe of public employees in Brazil over 1997–2014, and on a regression discontinuity design in close electoral races, we establish three main findings. First, political connections are a key and quantitatively large determinant of employment in public organizations, for both bureaucrats and frontline providers. Second, patronage is an important mechanism behind this result. Third, political considerations lead to the selection of less competent individuals.

Other Papers and Writings

A Cross-Country Comparison of Dynamics in the Large Firm Wage Premium (with Joacim Tag, Michael Webb, and Stefanie Wolter) [pdf] [AEA: Papers and Proceedings 108: 323–27]
Abstract: We provide stylized facts on the existence and dynamics over time of the large firm wage premium for four countries. We examine matched employer-employee micro-data from Brazil, Germany, Sweden, and the UK, and find that the large firm premium exists in all these countries. However, we uncover substantial differences among them in the evolution of the wage premium over the past several decades. Moreover, we find no clear evidence of common cross-country industry trends. We conclude by discussing potential explanations for this heterogeneity, and proposing some questions for future work in the area.