The Voluntary Restructuring of Large Firms In Response to Performance Decline

  • Published: Apr 30, 2012
  • Pages: 891-917
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.1992.tb03999.x


Much of the research on corporate restructuring has examined the causes and aftermath of extreme changes in corporate governance such as takeovers and bankruptcy. In contrast, we study restructurings initiated in response to product market pressures by “normal” corporate governance mechanisms. Such “voluntary” restructurings, motivated by the discipline of the product market and internal corporate controls, will play a relatively more important role in the 1990s due to a weakening in the discipline of the takeover market. Our data suggest that the firms retrenched quickly and, on average, increased their focus. There is no evidence of abnormally high levels of forced turnover in top managers. There is, however, a significant and rapid cut of 5% in the labor force. Further, the cost of goods sold to sales and labor costs to sales ratios both decline rapidly, more than 5% in the first two years after the negative earnings. The firms cut research and development, increased investment, and also reduced their debt/asset level by over 8% in the first year after the negative earnings. We also document the reasons management and analysis reported for the negative earnings. Overwhelmingly the firms blame bad economic conditions and, to a lesser extent, foreign competition.

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