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Books (back to top)

DeFi For Dummies, 2023, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
**code available here**
**sample dApp from Ch. 13 accessible here**

NFTs For Dummies, with Tiana Laurence, 2021, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
**code available here**

Book Chapters (back to top)

A Layman's Guide to Bitcoin & Blockchain (Ch. 3), with Bhagwan Chowdhry, 2021, The Palgrave Handbook of Technological Finance, Palgrave Macmillan
In this chapter, we provide an overview of the Bitcoin blockchain and we describe the underlying consensus protocol (a.k.a., the Nakamoto consensus), which has now been used across many other distributed ledger solutions following the advent of Bitcoin. We also discuss other choices in ledger design (e.g., public versus private, blockchain versus directed acyclic graph), and we discuss other types of consensus protocols. Overall, our purpose is to provide a simple but robust explanation of blockchain’s first widespread use case and to dispel common misunderstandings surrounding Bitcoin in particular, and distributed ledgers in general.

Distressed Debt (Ch. 32), 2019, Debt Market and Investments, Oxford University Press, p. 624-638
This chapter provides an introduction to distressed debt, primarily from the vantage point of debtholders in financially distressed corporations. In doing so, it provides a description of this sub-asset class and the basic intuition along with stylized examples to explain the motivating factors behind the strategic behavior of other stakeholders that may devalue a distressed-debt investor’s financial claim if left unattended. This chapter also discusses the considerations in distressed debt exchanges of public bond issuances or in the restructuring of private loan agreements, with the view to minimizing the likelihood of strategic default and other inefficient outcomes to investors of distressed debt. Overall, this chapter offers exposure to the basic features and terminology in distressed debt and debt restructuring.

Journal Articles (back to top)

Technological Disparity and Its Impact on Market Quality, with Kiseo Chung, 2023, forthcoming in Journal of Empirical Finance
Technological investments made by speed-sensitive market participants are increasingly frequent and have thus been a focal point of recent research. We examine an important, but unexplored facet of this trend: the technological disparity between the fastest market participants and the exchange itself. Using a proprietary dataset of a high-frequency market maker’s limit orders and order acknowledgments timestamped to the nanosecond, we explore the consistency and reliability of an exchange’s ability to discern the correct sequence of orders when messages are submitted in rapid (sub-microsecond) succession. We find a high degree of variability in acknowledgment times, and the proportion of times in which the first order entered is also first to be acknowledged is surprisingly low when consecutive orders are placed at very high frequencies. Furthermore, we provide evidence of impaired market quality as a result. These issues remain pertinent even following substantial technological improvements made by the exchange, because of the ongoing technological disparity between the exchange and the fastest market participants, who continue to competitively invest in technological improvements.

Directors' Decision-Making Involvement on Corporate Boards, 2020, International Journal of Economics and Finance, Vol. 12 (7), p. 72-97
Using the full set of committee memberships for the directors of Fortune 100 firms (which I collect from annual proxy statements), I introduce a measure to capture the extent of a director's involvement in discussion and decisions that affect corporate strategy. I document substantial variation in directors' decision-making power both within and across boards, and I provide evidence that this more nuanced yet systematically available measure yields more powerful and better specified tests in examining the link between board composition, accounting performance metrics, and shareholder value. Overall, I argue that incorporating these differences in decision-making power has important implications for studies in corporate governance.

Zero-Revelation RegTech: Detecting Risk through Linguistic Analysis of Corporate Emails and News, with Sanjiv Das and Bhushan Kothari, 2019 (Winter), Journal of Financial Data Science
Natural language processing (NLP) is a fast-growing area of data science for the finance industry. In this paper, we demonstrate how an applied linguistics expert system may be used to parse corporate email content and news to assess factors predicting escalating risk or the gradual shifting of other critical characteristics within the firm before they are eventually manifested in observable data and financial outcomes. We find that email content and news articles meaningfully predict increased risk and potential malaise. We also find that other structural characteristics, such as average email length, are strong predictors of risk and subsequent performance. Implementations of three spatial analyses of internal corporate communication, (i.e., email networks, vocabulary trends, and topic analysis) are presented. We propose a RegTech solution by which to systematically and effectively detect escalating risk or potential malaise without the need to manually read individual employee emails.

Dynamic Systemic Risk Networks: Networks in Data Science, with Sanjiv Das and Daniel Ostrov, 2019 (Spring), Journal of Financial Data Science
We propose a theory-driven framework for monitoring system-wide risk. Our approach extends the one-firm Merton (1974) credit risk model to a generalized stochastic network-based framework across all financial institutions, comprising a novel approach to measuring systemic risk over time. We develop four desired properties for any systemic risk measure. We also develop measures for the risks created by each individual institution and a measure for risk created by each pairwise connection between institutions. Four specific implementation models are then explored, and brief empirical examples illustrate the ease of implementation of these four models and show general consistency between their results.

Distributed Ledger and Blockchain Technology: Framework and Use Cases,with Atulya Sarin, 2018, Journal of Investment Management, Vol. 16 (3), p. 90-101
Since its first widespread implementation in 2009, distributed ledgers in general, and blockchain technology in particular, have rapidly become a part of the FinTech vernacular. In this paper, we provide an overview of the history of trade settlement and discuss this nascent technology that may now transform traditional methods of verifying and settling transactions. In so doing, we discuss current and potential use cases of this technology and provide a business-oriented framework for proper as well as improper implementations and applications of blockchains and distributed ledgers.

Crypto-Assets Unencrypted,with Atulya Sarin and Daljeet Virdi, 2018, Journal of Investment Management, Vol. 16 (2), p. 1-31
With the recent surge in crypto-activity, a natural question arises as to what exactly a “cryptocurrency” is and how to value and assess these digital assets. In this paper, we provide an overview of the history and technology underlying cryptocurrencies. We also present information on the volume, size, and volatility of this emerging asset class, which we compare to major fiat currencies and commodities. Finally, we provide a framework for valuing crypto-assets, discuss the still-evolving regulatory environment for this asset class, and discuss the mechanics of investing in cryptocurrencies.

Do Players Perform for Pay? An Empirical Examination via NFL Players' Compensation Contracts,with Atulya Sarin and Saagar Sarin, 2018, Journal of Banking and Finance, Vol. 88, p. 330-346
How to properly compensate and incentivize players is an important question in the realm of professional sports, and more broadly, is a central question in contract design. With the increasing use of performance-based compensation packages and tax law favoring such compensation design, a natural question arises as to whether workers do indeed perform for pay. We examine this question in a setting that is not fraught with the typical measurement and identification problems found in many pay-performance settings. Specifically, we examine changes in a NFL player’s Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA) in response to his compensation-contract design. Overall, our paper provides evidence that players do indeed perform for (properly designed) pay, and has important implications for future work on compensation and incentive-based contract design.

Measuring Correlated Default Risk: A New Metric and Validity Tests, with Siamak Javadi, Tim Krehbiel, and Ali Nejadmalyeri, 2017, Journal of Fixed Income, lead article, Vol. 27 (2), p. 6-29
Extracting information from daily CDS spreads, we propose a measure of correlated default risk, which we show is a meaningful predictor of bankruptcy clusters. Focusing on U.S. corporate bonds, we also find that our measure of correlated default risk is more pronounced and commands a higher premium during periods of financial distress and for speculative issues. For instance, we find that after controlling for other known determinants of bond pricing, a 0.5 increase in aggregate correlated default risk is associated with a 13-bps increase in credit spreads, and elevates to a 22-bps premium for speculative issues and to a 17-bps premium during periods of financial distress. Overall, our paper provides compelling evidence as to the efficacy of our measure in capturing correlations in the likelihood of default over time, and has important implications for future work in asset allocation and fixed-income pricing.

Managing Rollover Risk with Capital Structure Covenants in Structured Finance Vehicles, with Sanjiv Das, 2017, Journal of Fixed Income, Vol. 26 (4), p. 99-112
The shadow banking system comprises special purpose vehicles (SPVs) characterized by high debt, illiquid long-maturity assets funded predominantly by short-maturity debt, and tranched liabilities also known as the capital structure of the SPV. These three features lead to an adversarial game among senior-note holders, who solve for an optimal rollover policy based on the other senior tranches with varying rollover dates. This rollover policy is, in turn, taken into account by capital-note holders (i.e., investors in the equity tranche) when choosing the capital structure (i.e., the assets-to-debt ratio) of the SPV. Rollover risk increases in the number of time tranches, resulting in a lower equilibrium level of debt and higher cost of debt. The expected life of the SPV may also be shortened. We propose a covenant-based capital structure that mitigates these problems and is Pareto-improving for equity and debt holders in the SPV.

The Design and Risk Management of Structured Finance Vehicles, with Sanjiv Das, 2016, Journal of Risk and Financial Management, Vol. 9, Special Issue "Credit Risk"
Special purpose vehicles (SPVs), extremely popular financial structures for the creation of highly-rated tranched securities, experienced spectacular demise in the 2007--08 financial crisis. These financial vehicles epitomize the shadow banking sector, characterized by high leverage, undiversified asset pools, and long-dated assets supported by short-term debt, thus bearing material rollover risk on their liabilities which led to defeasance. This paper models these vehicles, and shows that imposing leverage risk control triggers can be optimal for all capital providers. The efficacy of these risk controls vary depending on anticipated asset volatility and fire-sale discounts on defeasance. Despite risk management controls, we show that a high failure rate is inherent in the design of these vehicles, and may be mitigated to some extent by including contingent capital provisions in the ex-ante covenants. Post the recent subprime financial crisis, we inform the creation of safer SPVs in structured finance, and propose avenues of mitigating risks faced by senior debt through deleveraging policies in the form of leverage risk controls and contingent capital.

Credit Spreads with Dynamic Debt, with Sanjiv Das, 2015, Journal of Banking and Finance, Vol. 50, p.121-140
This paper extends the baseline Merton (1974) structural default model, which is intended for static debt spreads, to a setting with dynamic debt, where leverage can be ratcheted up as well as written down through pre-specified exogenous policies. We provide a different and novel solution approach to dynamic debt than in the extant literature. For many dynamic debt covenants, ex-ante credit spread term structures can be derived in closed-form using modified barrier option mathematics, whereby debt spreads can be expressed using combinations of single barrier options (both knock-in and knock-out), double barrier options, double-touch barrier options, in-out barrier options, and one-touch double barrier binary options. We observe that debt principal swap down covenants decrease the magnitude of credit spreads but increase the slope of the credit curve, transforming downward sloping curves into upward sloping ones. On the other hand, ratchet covenants increase the magnitude of ex-ante spreads without dramatically altering the slope of the credit curve. These covenants may be optimized by appropriately setting restructuring boundaries, which entails a trade-off between the reduction in spreads against restructuring costs. Overall, explicitly modeling this latent option to alter debt leads to term structures of credit spreads that are more consistent with observed empirics.

Coming Up Short: Managing Underfunded Portfolios in a LDI-ES Framework, with Sanjiv Das and Meir Statman, 2014, Journal of Portfolio Management, Vol. 41 (1), p.95-108
We employ a liability directed investment (LDI) rebalancing framework based on expected shortfall (ES), which we refer to as LDI-ES, to prescribe remedies for an underfunded portfolio. Investors in the LDI-ES framework face a risky asset, such as a stock index, and a risk-free bond. They begin with some level of current wealth and set their target wealth at the end of N periods, and their tolerance for shortfalls from that target wealth. Portfolio rebalancing in the LDI-ES framework is contrasted with common fixed-proportions rebalancing, where portfolio allocations are rebalanced to ratios, such as 60:40, at the beginning of each of N periods. We consider critical issues of underfunding, where there is no portfolio that can meet the shortfall constraint, and we explore the effectiveness of (a) portfolio infusions in resolving underfunded situations, relative to other measures such as (b) increasing risk, (c) cutting back on target liabilities/goals, and (d) extending portfolio horizon.

Going for Broke: Restructuring Distressed Debt, with Sanjiv Das, 2014, Journal of Fixed Income, lead article, Vol. 24 (1), p.5-27
This paper discusses how to restructure a portfolio of distressed debt, what the gains are from doing so, and attributes these gains to restructuring and portfolio effects. This is an interesting and novel problem in fixed-income portfolio management that has received scant modeling attention. We show that debt restructuring is Pareto improving and lucrative for borrowers, lenders, and investors in distressed debt. First, the methodological contribution of the paper is a parsimonious model for the pricing and optimal restructuring of distressed debt, i.e., loans that are under-collateralized and are at risk of borrower default, where willingness to pay and ability to pay are at issue. Distressed-debt investing is a unique portfolio problem in that (a) it requires optimization over all moments, not just mean and variance, and (b) with debt restructuring, the investor can endogenously alter the return distribution of the candidate securities before subjecting them to portfolio construction. Second, economically, we show that post-restructuring return distributions of distressed debt portfolios are attractive to fixed-income investors, with risk-adjusted certainty equivalent yield pick-ups in the hundreds of basis points, suggesting the need for more efficient markets for distressed debt, and shedding light on the current policy debate regarding the use of eminent domain in mitigating real estate foreclosures.

Structured Finance Deals: A Review of the Rating Process and Recent Evidence Thereof, 2012, Journal of Investment Management, Vol. 10 (4), p.103-115
The pooling and tranching of assets into prioritized cash-flow claims has become a substantial source of revenue for issuers as well as rating agencies in the last decade. With the recent demise of vehicles used to operationalize these structured deals, a natural question arises as to the quality of standards applied in structuring, managing, and ultimately rating these products. The purpose of this paper is to review rating practices in the area of structured finance, and to summarize the research and empirical evidence pertaining to these questions.

It Pays to Have Friends, with Byoung-Hyoun Hwang, 2009, Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 93 (1), p.138-158
Currently, a director is classified as independent if he/she has neither financial nor familial ties to the CEO or to the firm. We add another dimension: social ties. Using a unique data set, we find that 87% of boards are conventionally independent, but that only 62% are conventionally and socially independent. Furthermore, firms whose boards are conventionally and socially independent award a significantly lower level of compensation, exhibit stronger pay performance sensitivity, and exhibit stronger turnover-performance sensitivity than firms whose boards are only conventionally independent. Our results suggest that social ties do matter, and that consequently, a considerable percentage of the conventionally independent boards are substantively not.

Return Performance Surrounding Reverse Stock Splits, with April Klein and James Rosenfeld, 2008, Financial Management, lead article, Vol. 37 (2), p.173-192
We examine the long-run return performance of over 1,600 firms with reverse stock splits. These stocks record statistically significant negative abnormal returns over the three-year period following the month of the reverse split. The sample firms experience poor operating performances over the four years that include and follow the year of the reverse split, which suggests informational inefficiencies. Because these stocks have unique financial characteristics, we also show that they would be very difficult to sell short. Thus, arbitrageurs would be restricted in their ability to earn abnormal profits, even if they correctly anticipated a price decline.

Working Papers / Works in Progress (back to top)

Measuring Luck in CEO Outperformance
Firm performance is a crucial factor in how CEOs are evaluated. However, a CEO can be repeatedly lucky or unlucky, adding noise to performance outcomes as a measure of managerial ability. In this study, I examine how much of the observed cross-sectional dispersion in outcomes can be attributed to differences in luck as opposed to differences in skill. Using bootstrap simulations, I show that, even if all CEOs were equally skilled, we can expect substantial differences in performance outcomes. When comparing the simulated distribution of outcomes to the actual empirical distribution, I find that the best performing CEOs perform too well relative to the median to be completely explained by luck alone. However, the true underlying differences in skill are substantially smaller than suggested by simply looking at the raw performance differential. Interestingly, repeatedly unlucky CEOs from the simulations vastly underperform the worst performances observed empirically, suggesting that repeatedly unlucky performers may be terminated in reality whereas they are allowed to continue in a simulated economy.

Other Articles (back to top)

The Cryptos Are Here: Consumer Protection in Virtual Currency Markets Under the CFTC's Watch, with Sumon Mazumdar, 2018, forthcoming in the American Bar Association's Consumer Litigation News

The Origin and Evolution of Cryptocurrencies, with Sumon Mazumdar, 2018, forthcoming in the American Bar Association's Consumer Litigation News

Cryptocurrencies Demystified and the SEC's Regulatory Stance, with Sumon Mazumdar, 2018, the American Bar Association's Litigation News, Vol. 43 (4)

Detecting Risk through Firms’ Emails, with Sanjiv Das and Bhushan Kothari, February 2017
Article for the CLS Blue Sky Blog (Columbia Law School's blog on corporations and the capital markets). This article was based on "Zero-Revelation RegTech: Detecting Risk through Corporate Emails and News", a working paper listed above.

Practical Applications of... Coming up Short: Managing Underfunded Portfolios in an LDI-ES Framework, with Sanjiv Das and Meir Statman, 2015
Article for the Practical Applications series of the Institutional Investor Journals. This article was based on "Coming up Short: Management Underfunded Portfolios in an LDI-ES Framework", a published paper listed above.

Mini "Cases" (back to top)

“Case Studies” presents a case pertinent to contemporary issues and events in investment management. Insightful and provocative questions are posed at the end of each case to challenge the reader. Each case is an invitation to the critical thinking and pragmatic problem solving that are so fundamental to the practice of investment management.

Managing Market Downturns with NAV Loans, with Ivan Asensio, 2024, Journal of Investment Management

Tradeoffs in Goosing the IRR, with Ivan Asensio, 2023, Journal of Investment Management

Investment Management Lessons Learned from the Management and Mismanagement of Impending Bank Runs, 2023, Journal of Investment Management

Bitcoin ETFs: The Pros and Cons of a Spot ETF Versus a Futures ETF, 2023, Journal of Investment Management

ESG Greenwashing and Recent SEC Actions, with Ye Cai, 2022, Journal of Investment Management

Passive Versus Active ESG Investing: How a Small Hedge Fund Converts an Oil Giant, with Ye Cai, 2022, Journal of Investment Management

NFTs as Alternative Investments?, 2021, Journal of Investment Management

Pairs Trading in the Era of Meme Stocks, 2021, Journal of Investment Management

Is "1 and 10" the New "2 and 20"?, 2020, Journal of Investment Management

Collective Defined Contribution Plans, 2020, Journal of Investment Management

Do You Know the Provenance of Your Alternative Data, 2019, Journal of Investment Management

Using Social Media Analytics in the Management of Investment Management, 2019, Journal of Investment Management

On Permanent Hiatus (back to top)

Social Ties and Earnings Management, with Byoung-Hyoun Hwang, 2012
We detect a significant presence of social ties between the CEO and audit committee members and our results suggest that these informal ties play a material role in audit-committee oversight. In particular, we find a substantially stronger, positive relation between abnormal (i.e., discretionary) accruals and the extent of an audit committee's connection to the CEO when we consider social ties in addition to the conventional ties. Moreover, we find that an audit committee's social affiliation is associated with an increased discontinuity in the earnings distribution surrounding earnings targets. Together, our findings suggest that informal ties play a material role in facilitating creative accounting practices.