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Dividends as Reference Points: A Behavioral Signaling Approach

Malcolm Baker, Brock Mendel and Jeffrey Wurgler

Review of Financial Studies, 2016, vol. 29, issue 3, 697-738

Abstract: We outline a dividend signaling model that features investors who are averse to dividend cuts. Managers with strong unobservable cash earnings pay high dividends but retain enough to be likely not to fall short next period. The model is consistent with a Lintner partial-adjustment model, modal dividend changes of zero, stronger market reactions to dividend cuts than increases, comparatively infrequent and irregular repurchases, and a mechanism that does not depend on public destruction of value, which managers reject in surveys. New tests involve stronger reactions to changes from longer-maintained dividend levels and reference point currencies of American Depository Receipt dividends. Received July 16, 2012; accepted September 15, 2015 by Editor David Hirshleifer.

Date: 2016
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