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Does Media Coverage Cause Meritorious Shareholder Litigation? Evidence from the Stock Option Backdating Scandal

Dain Donelson, Antonis Kartapanis and Christopher G. Yust

Journal of Law and Economics, 2021, vol. 64, issue 3, 567 - 601

Abstract: This study examines the role of media coverage in meritorious shareholder litigation. Asserting a causal effect of the media on litigation is normally difficult because of the endogenous nature of media coverage. However, we use the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of stock option backdating to overcome these issues. Using a matched sample of firms with similar probabilities of backdating and related government investigations, we find consistent evidence of a causal relation between media coverage and meritorious litigation. We also find a negative abnormal market reaction to the articles and conduct a variety of analyses to show that it was the content of the articles, rather than the coverage itself, that resulted in litigation. Our results demonstrate that the media serves an important role in corporate accountability that both disincentivizes misconduct and holds firms accountable.

Date: 2021
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