1320 Steinberg Hall - Dietrich Hall
3620 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Research Interests: technological innovation and its role in the market for information, alternative data, the interaction between information processing costs and firms’ actions, consumer disclosures
Professor Zhu’s primary research interest is empirical financial accounting. The underlying theme of her work is that costly information acquisition has economic consequences. Her research studies different elements of the feedback loop between investors’ information acquisition costs, stock price efficiency, and managers’ incentives and actions.
Professor Zhu currently serves as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Accounting and Economics and on the Editorial Board of The Accounting Review and the Review of Accounting Studies. She has published her research in top accounting and finance journals.
Professor Zhu received her Ph.D. in Business Administration (Accounting) from Stanford University and a B.A. in Economics and B.S. in Mathematics from Stanford University. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. degree, she was an investment banking analyst at Perella Weinberg Partners.
Brian Bushee, Daniel Taylor, Christina Zhu (2023), The Dark Side of Investor Conferences: Evidence of Managerial Opportunism, The Accounting Review. 10.2308/TAR-2020-0624
Abstract: While the shareholder benefits of investor conferences are well-documented, evidence on whether these conferences facilitate managerial opportunism is scarce. In this paper, we examine whether managers opportunistically exploit heightened attention around the conference to “hype” the stock. We find that managers increase the quantity of voluntary disclosure leading up to the conference; that these disclosures are more positive in tone and increase prices to a greater extent than post-conference disclosures; and that these disclosures are more pronounced when insiders sell their shares immediately prior to the conference. In circumstances where pre-conference disclosures coincide with pre-conference insider selling, we find evidence of a significant return reversal––large positive returns before the conference, and large negative returns after the conference––and that the firm is more likely to be named in a securities class action lawsuit. Collectively, our findings are consistent with some managers hyping the stock prior to the conference.
Suzie Noh, Eric So, Christina Zhu (Working), Financial Reporting and Consumer Behavior.
Abstract: We show that financial reporting influences consumer behavior by showcasing firms' brand names and financial information. Analyzing GPS data, we document upticks in foot-traffic to firms' commercial locations immediately following their earnings announcements. This increase is more pronounced for announcements with extreme surprises, substantial media coverage, and heightened internet search volume—implying that announcement coverage drives consumer behavior by capturing attention. Furthermore, foot-traffic increases with positive earnings for firms offering durable goods, suggesting consumers respond to news about firms' financial prospects. These patterns generate feedback effects on revenue and advertising effectiveness, ultimately suggesting that financial reporting serves a marketing function.
Allison Nicoletti and Christina Zhu (Working), Economic Consequences of Transparency Regulation: Evidence from Bank Mortgage Lending.
Abstract: We examine the economic consequences of a rule designed to improve consumers' understanding of mortgage information. The 2015 TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule simplifies the mortgage disclosures provided to consumers. As a consequence, TRID-affected mortgages become a less attractive investment opportunity to banks. Our main results document that mortgage applications affected by TRID are less likely to be approved following the rule's effective date. We find evidence consistent with both a decrease in consumers' information processing costs and an increase in banks' secondary market frictions, providing insight into the potential channels through which this reduction in mortgage credit operates. We also find that banks partially compensate for reduced mortgage lending by increasing small business lending, and that fintechs absorb mortgage demand in areas with reduced mortgage lending by banks. Our study documents real actions that firms take in response to disclosure transparency regulation and contributes to the literature on the economic consequences of such regulation.
Qianqian Li, Edward Watts, Christina Zhu (Working), Retail Investors and ESG News.
Abstract: A critical debate exists around the extent to which retail investors do, or should, invest in socially responsible investments. We provide evidence relevant to this debate by investigating the aggregate trading patterns of retail investors around a comprehensive sample of key Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) news events for U.S. firms. Our focus on news-relevant events allows us to bypass measurement issues related to investors' frictions in becoming aware of and understanding ESG-related information. We show that ESG news appears to be an important component of retail investors' portfolio allocation decisions. Yet, inconsistent with non-pecuniary preferences, retail investors only trade on this information when they deem it financially material to a company's stock performance. Moreover, their net trading demand predicts future abnormal returns, consistent with some ability to profit from transacting on ESG news. Overall, we conclude that retail investors care about firms' ESG-related activities, but only to the extent they are financially material for company performance.
James Li, Olivia S. Mitchell, Christina Zhu (Working), Household Investment in 529 College Savings Plans and Information Processing Frictions.
Abstract: We investigate how information processing frictions contribute to household suboptimal saving and investment behavior. We find that 60% of open accounts in college 529 savings plans are invested suboptimally due to high expenses and tax inefficiency. Such investments yield an expected loss of 9% over the accounts’ projected lifetimes. Consistent with information processing frictions contributing to inefficient investment, the extent of investment in suboptimal home-state accounts decreases with household financial literacy and increases with plan document disclosure complexity. Overall, our results suggest that information processing frictions shape households’ suboptimal investment in college savings plans and reduce their financial well-being.
Robert E. Verrecchia and Christina Zhu (Working), Liquidity, Trade, and Investor-Identity Disclosure.
Abstract: This study tests whether disclosing a trader's identity dampens or stimulates subsequent trading volume based on the trader's reputation for being informed. Reputation signals the quality of private information that exists in the market. While a reputation for being informed makes markets less liquid, thus inhibiting subsequent trade (“illiquidity effect”), the information others glean from informed trade might motivate subsequent trade (“information effect”). To study which of these countervailing forces dominates, we use a setting where mandated short-position disclosures in Europe reveal the trader's identity at the time of trade. Changes in bid-ask spreads, price adjustments, and changes in subsequent trading volume are positively associated with several proxies for the short seller's reputation: the short seller is local, has higher returns from previous short sales, and is a hedge fund or investment adviser. Despite the positive association between reputation and illiquidity, we show that reputation motivates more subsequent trade from other investors learning from the disclosure. The informational efficiency of prices also increases with trader reputation. Thus, our results support the notion that the “information effect” dominates the “illiquidity effect.” Our study contributes to the literature by investigating the interaction among investor identification, adverse selection, and trade.
Charles Lee and Christina Zhu (2022), Active Funds and Bundled News, The Accounting Review. 10.2308/TAR-2018-0380
Abstract: We use trade-level data to examine the role of actively managed funds (AMFs) in earnings news dissemination. We find AMFs are drawn to, and participate disproportionately more in, earnings announcements (EAs) that include bundled managerial guidance. When the two pieces of news are directionally inconsistent, AMFs trade in the direction of future guidance rather than current earnings. AMFs exhibit an ability to discern, and adapt their trading to, the bias in bundled guidance. While AMF trades at EAs are generally more profitable than their non-EA trades, this result reverses when guidance bias is extreme. Overall, we find increased AMF trading during EAs leads to faster price adjustment. Collectively, these findings suggest AMFs are sophisticated processors of bundled earnings news, and their trading generally improves market price discovery.
Ed deHaan, Yang Song, Chloe Xie, Christina Zhu (2021), Obfuscation in Mutual Funds, Journal of Accounting and Economics. 10.1016/j.jacceco.2021.101429
Abstract: Mutual funds hold 32% of the U.S. equity market and comprise 58% of retirement savings, yet retail investors consistently make poor choices when selecting funds. Theory suggests poor choices are partially due to fund managers creating unnecessarily complex disclosures and fee structures to keep investors uninformed and obfuscate poor performance. An empirical challenge in investigating this “strategic obfuscation” theory is isolating manipulated complexity from complexity arising from inherent differences across funds. We examine obfuscation among S&P 500 index funds, which have largely the same regulations, risks, and gross returns but charge widely different fees. Using bespoke measures of complexity designed for mutual funds, we find evidence consistent with funds attempting to obfuscate high fees. This study improves our understanding of why investors make poor mutual fund choices and how price dispersion persists among homogeneous index funds. We also discuss insights for mutual fund regulation and academic literature on corporate disclosures.
David F. Larcker, Charles McClure, Christina Zhu (Working), Peer-Group Choice, Chief Executive Officer Compensation, and Firm Performance.
Abstract: We examine the selection of peer groups that boards of directors use when setting CEO compensation. The challenge is to ascertain whether peer groups are selected to (i) attract and retain executive talent and/or (ii) enable rent extraction by inappropriately increasing compensation. We find that the inferences in prior research are based on questionable methodological choices and do not generalize with an expanded sample. After addressing these concerns, we find that, on average, excess peer compensation has a negative association with future firm operating performance. However, significant variation in CEO talent and corporate governance exists within the cross-section of firms. The negative association between excess peer compensation and future performance is mitigated when the firm has a high level of CEO talent, and exacerbated when the firm has low-quality corporate governance. Thus, the economic consequences of peer-group choice are highly contextual. In general, we find that talent motivations explain more of the variation in the future performance implications of peer-group choice than corporate governance.
Alan Kwan and Christina Zhu (Working), Does Context Matter? Evidence from Internet Research Activity by Sophisticated Investors.
Abstract: Using a unique dataset of internet research on business media sites matched to the identities of investors, we argue that broadly available media content can help sophisticated investors generate private information. Prior work finds that adverse selection increases at earnings announcements because some traders make superior assessments of firm value based on the disclosure. We find a positive relation between sophisticated investors’ pre-earnings announcement gathering of industry-relevant, “contextual” information and illiquidity at the time of the announcement, suggesting this specific source of public information provides some investors with a comparative advantage in interpreting earnings announcements.
This course is an introduction to the basic concepts and standards underlying financial accounting systems. Several important concepts will be studied in detail, including: revenue recognition, inventory, long-lived assets, present value, and long term liabilities. The course emphasizes the construction of the basic financial accounting statements - the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement - as well as their interpretation.
This is Part IV of a theoretical and empirical literature survey sequence covering topics that include corporate disclosure, cost of capital, incentives, compensation, governance, financial intermediation, financial reporting, tax, agency theory, cost accounting, capital structure, international financial reporting, analysts, and market efficiency. Please contact the accounting doctoral coordinator for information on the specific upcoming modules/topics that will be taught.
Retail trade: Retail trading volume is implemented in Blankespoor, deHaan, Wertz, and Zhu (2019), based on Boehmer, Jones, Zhang, and Zhang (2020) and Holden and Jacobsen (2014).
Please see Github repository: https://github.com/czhuuu/retail-trade.git.
Adjusted Intraperiod Timeliness (Adjusted IPT): a measure of speed of price discovery that penalizes for inefficient overreaction.
Please see Github repository: https://github.com/czhuuu/Adjusted-IPT.git.
The simpler Adjusted IPT file contains a SAS macro to calculate the simpler Adjusted IPT measure, as implemented in Blankespoor, deHaan, and Zhu (2018), assumes that the daily return accumulation is immediately at open, while the more complex Adjusted IPT measure assumes even return accumulation over a given day. The Adjusted IPT file contains a SAS macro to calculate IPT (without the adjustment) and (the more complex) Adjusted IPT. For more details on the two different assumptions, please see the Internet Appendix.
Recent Wharton research finds evidence of company insiders timing voluntary disclosures ahead of corporate events, profiting off heightened visibility.…Read MoreKnowledge at Wharton - 11/15/2022