Liquidity Effects of Litigation Risk: Evidence from a Legal Shock

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Theory offers two diverging views on the effects of ex ante litigation risk on corporate liquidity proxied by cash holdings. Ex ante litigation risk, however, is difficult to measure. We test the liquidity effects of ex ante litigation risk by exploiting the phase-by-phase introduction of securities class actions (SCAs) in Korea. Following the increase in litigation risk, firms significantly increase their internal liquidity, especially those without directors’ and officers’ liability insurance and those that are financially constrained. The results hold robustly in difference-in-differences and regression discontinuity designs. We also find that the increase in ex ante SCA risk improves firms’ stock market liquidity and valuation, especially for firms that do not carry liability insurance. Taken together, the results are consistent with the arguments that SCAs increase firms’ liability risk and lower investors’ risk.

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