Dividend Policy under Asymmetric Information

  • Author(s): MERTON H. MILLER, KEVIN ROCK
  • Published: Apr 30, 2012
  • Pages: 1031-1051
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.1985.tb02362.x

ABSTRACT

We extend the standard finance model of the firm's dividend/investment/financing decisions by allowing the firm's managers to know more than outside investors about the true state of the firm's current earnings. The extension endogenizes the dividend (and financing) announcement effects amply documented in recent research. But once trading of shares is admitted to the model along with asymmetric information, the familiar Fisherian criterion for optimal investment becomes time inconsistent: the market's belief that the firm is following the Fisher rule creates incentives to violate the rule.

We show that an informationally consistent signalling equilibrium exists under asymmetric information and the trading of shares that restores the time consistency of investment policy, but leads in general to lower levels of investment than the optimum achievable under full information and/or no trading. Contractual provisions that change the information asymmetry or the possibility of profiting from it could eliminate both the time inconsistency and the inefficiency in investment policies, but these contractual provisions too are likely to involve dead‐weight costs. Establishing which route or combination of routes serves in practice to maintain consistency remains for future research.

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