Hiring Cheerleaders: Board Appointments of "Independent" Directors
Using a unique, hand-collected database of independent directors, we provide evidence that firms appoint independent directors who are overly sympathetic to management, while still technically independent according to regulatory definitions. We explore a subset of independent directors for whom we have detailed, micro-level data on their views regarding the firm prior to being appointed to the board: sell-side analysts who are subsequently appointed to the board of companies they previously covered. We find that boards appoint overly optimistic analysts who are also poor relative performers. The magnitude of the optimistic bias is large: 82.0% of appointed recommendations are strong-buy/buy recommendations, compared to 56.9% for all other analyst recommendations. We find that appointed analystsâ€™ optimism is stronger at precisely those times when firmsâ€™ benefits are larger, and that appointing firms increase earnings management, and perform poorly, following these board appointments.
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