Rui J. P. De Figueiredo Jr and Geoff Edwards
To what extent can market participants affect the outcomes of regulatory policy? In this paper, we study the effects of one potential source of influence—campaign contributions—from competing interests in the local telecommunications industry, on regulatory policy decisions of state public utility commissions. Our work is unique in that we test the effects of campaign contributions on measurable policy outcomes. This stands in stark relief against most of the existing literature, which examines potentially noisier measures of policy outcomes—such as the roll-call votes of legislators, to examine how private money may influence public policy. By moving to more direct measures of policy effects, and using a unique new dataset, we find, in contrast to much of the literature on campaign contributions, that there is a significant effect of private money on regulatory outcomes. This result is robust to numerous alternative model specifications. We also assess the extent of omitted variable bias that would have to exist to obviate the estimated result. We find that for our result to be spurious, omitted variables would have to explain more than five times the variation in the mix of private money as is explained by the variables included in our analysis. We consider this to be very unlikely.
Ernesto Dal Bó, Pedro Dal Bó and Rafael Di Tella
We present a model where a long run player is allowed to use both money transfers and threats to influence the decisions of a sequence of short run players. We show that threats might be used credibly (even in arbitrarily short repeated games) by a long-lived player who gains by developing a reputation of carrying out punishments. Particular cases of the model are a long-lived pressure group offering rewards and punishments to a series of targets (public or corporate officials) in exchange for policy favors, or that of a long-lived extorter who demands money in order not to punish. We use the model to analyze the “convicted nonpayor” debate around judicial corruption. The model highlights formal similarities between lobbying and extortion.
David P. Baron and Daniel Diermeier
Activist NGOs have increasingly foregone public politics and turned to private politics to change the practices of firms and industries. This paper focuses on private politics, activist strategies, and nonmarket strategies of targets. A formal theory of an encounter between an activist organization and a target is presented to examine strategies for lessening the chance of being a target and for addressing an activist challenge once it has occurred. The encounter between the activist and the target is viewed as competition. At the heart of that competition is an activist campaign, which is represented by a demand, a promised reward if the target meets the demand, and a threat of harm if the target rejects the demand. The model incorporates target selection by the activist, proactive measures and reputation building by a potential target to reduce the likelihood of being selected as a target, fighting a campaign, and credible commitment.
Bharat Anand, Rafael Di Tella and Alexander Galetovic
Two aspects of media bias are important empirically. First, bias is persistent: it does not seem to disappear even when the media is under scrutiny. Second, bias is conflicting: different people often perceive bias in the same media outlet to be of opposite signs. We build a model in which both empirical characteristics of bias are observed in equilibrium.The key assumptions are that the information contained in the facts about a news event may not always be fully verifiable, and consumers have heterogeneous prior views (“ideologies”) about the news event. Based on these ingredients of the model, we build a location model with entry to characterize firms' reports in equilibrium, and the nature of bias. When a news item comprises only fully verifiable facts, firms report these as such, so that there is no bias and the market looks like any market for information. When a news item comprises information that is mostly nonverifiable, however, then consumers may care both about opinion and editorials, and a firm's report will contain both these aspects—in which case the market resembles any differentiated product market.
David P. Baron
Milton Friedman argued that the social responsibility of firms is to maximize profits. This paper examines this argument for the economic environment envisioned by Friedman in which citizens can personally give to social causes and can invest in profit-maximizing firms and firms that give a portion of their profits to social causes. Citizens obtain social satisfaction from corporate social giving, but corporate giving may not be a perfect substitute for personal giving. The paper presents a theory of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and shows that CSR is costly when it is an imperfect substitute. When investors anticipate the CSR, shareholders do not bear its cost. Instead, the entrepreneurs who form the CSR firms bear the cost. Shareholders bear the cost of CSR only when it is a surprise, and it is to such surprises that Friedman objects. A social entrepreneur is willing to form a CSR firm at a financial loss because either doing so expands the opportunity sets of citizens in consumption-social giving space or there is an entrepreneurial warm glow from forming the firm. Firms can also undertake strategic CSR activities that increase profits, and a social entrepreneur carries strategic CSR beyond profit maximization and market value maximization. The paper also examines the implications of taxes and the effect of the market for control for the sustainability of CSR.
Aleix Calveras, Juan-JosÉ Ganuza and Gerard Llobet
This paper analyzes the interplay between firms' self-regulation (often denoted as corporate social responsibility) as opposed to the formal regulation of a negative externality. Firms respond to increasing activism in the market (conscious consumers that take into account the external effects of their purchase) by providing more socially responsible goods. However, because regulation is the outcome of a political process, an increase in activism might imply an inefficiently high externality level. This may happen when a majority of non-activist consumers collectively free-ride on conscious consumers. By determining a softer than optimal regulation, they benefit from the behavior of firms, yet they have access to cheaper (although less efficient) goods.
Giovanni Cespa and Giacinta Cestone
When stakeholder protection is left to the voluntary initiative of managers, relations with social activists may become an effective entrenchment strategy for inefficient CEOs. We thus argue that managerial turnover and firm value are increased when explicit stakeholder protection is introduced so as to deprive incumbent CEOs of activists' support. This finding provides a rationale for the emergence of specialized institutions (social auditors and ethic indexes) that help firms commit to stakeholder protection even in the case of managerial replacement. Our theory also explains a recent trend whereby social activist organizations and institutional shareholders are showing a growing support for each other's agenda.
Donald S. Siegel and Donald F. Vitaliano
Recent theories of the strategic use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) emphasize the role of information asymmetry and how CSR is likely to be incorporated into a firm's product differentiation strategy. A key empirical implication of these theories is that firms selling experience or credence goods are more likely to be socially responsible than firms selling search goods. Using firm-level data, we report evidence that is consistent with this hypothesis.