The effect of corporate governance on credit ratings: Evidence from China's bond market
This paper examines the association between firms’ corporate governance and credit ratings (both bond ratings and issuer ratings) in China. In addition to considering the financial attributes of bond issuers, we ask to what extent do credit rating agencies consider the corporate governance attributes of issuers? In concept, bondholders are concerned with the financial effects of how corporate governance resolves the agency conflicts between bondholders and managers, majority and minority shareholders, and shareholders and bondholders. We find that corporate governance affects bond issuer credit ratings in China. After controlling for firms’ financial attributes, we find that issuer ratings are positively related to dual-listing, whether the firm is a state-owned enterprise, the ownership of the second to the tenth largest shareholder; and negatively related to the relative scale of audit fees. We attribute the positive association between dual-listing and credit rating to higher quality and transparency of information reported by the dual-listed firm. The value to bondholders of the implicit government guarantee of debt payments more than offsets the negative association between firm value and being an SOE. Bond rating agencies expect that the change in agency costs with a reduction in the ownership of the largest shareholder benefits bondholders. To credit rating agencies, the scale of audit fees (relative to total assets of the accounting firm) signals interest binding between the client firm and the accounting firm that threatens the independence of auditing and the quality of financial reporting. We also find that bond-specific attributes: collateral and issue size, are positively related to bond credit ratings.
Bradford, W; Chen, C; Zhao, Y
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