Managerial ability and debt choice

Md Samsul Alam, Mostafa Hasan, Nurul Alam, Md Shahidul Islam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a sample of 54,964 firm-year observations of U.S. public firms during the period 2001 to 2020, we investigate how managerial ability affects corporate debt choice. We find evidence that managerial ability is negatively associated with the use of bank debt. This finding remains robust to a battery of robustness tests, including alternative measures of managerial ability and debt choice, various econometric specifications, and a range of endogeneity tests. Using the sudden death of the CEO as an exogenous shock to the managerial ability, our difference-in-differences regression suggests a negative causal relationship between managerial ability and reliance on bank debt. Further, using advanced machine learning models, we identify that managerial ability is one of the highly influential variables in predicting firms’ debt choices. Our cross-sectional tests indicate that this relationship is more pronounced in the presence of higher information opacity, weaker corporate governance and poor financial conditions. In additional tests, we show that firms with more able managers use more unsecured debt and public debt. Taken together, our findings suggest that managerial ability matters in shaping corporate debt choice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAbacus: A Journal of Accounting, Finance and Business Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


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