While both the economic and agency theory have been proposed to explain cost stickiness, Chen, Lu, and Sougiannis (2012) is the first study that provides evidence to support the agency explanation. To address the endogeneity concern, we extend Chen et al. (2012) by employing state antitakeover laws (ATLs) as an exogenous shock to the corporate governance environment and examine whether the behavior of selling, general and administrative (SG&A) costs changes around the passage of the ATLs. Using the difference-in-differences methodology, we report two primary findings. First, when sales increase, SG&A costs increase significantly more after the enactment of the ATLs, which is consistent with the ATL literature that managers enjoy the “quiet life” after being insulated from an active takeover market. Second and more importantly, we do not find evidence to suggest that managers reduce SG&A costs less in response to sales decline after the passage of the ATLs, which is inconsistent with the agency explanation of cost stickiness. These results hold in settings where we expect the effect of ATLs to be stronger and are robust to sensitivity analyses. Although we would not rule out the agency explanation, our study does cast doubt on the explanation and calls for further research into the reasons behind cost stickiness.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2014|