Michael Schwert

Michael Schwert
  • Assistant Professor of Finance

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    2451 Steinberg-Dietrich Hall
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: debt capital markets, credit risk, financial intermediation, corporate finance

Links: CV, Personal Website

Research

  • Arthur Korteweg, Michael Schwert, Ilya Strebulaev (2020), Proactive Capital Structure Adjustments: Evidence from Corporate Filings, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Forthcoming.

    Abstract: We use new hand-collected data from corporate filings to study the drivers of capital structure adjustment by firms. Classifying firms by their frequency of leverage adjustment, we reveal previously unknown patterns in their reasons for financing and financial instruments used. Some behaviors are consistent with existing theory, while others are understudied. Without detailed filings data, several findings would be difficult to explain. We also show that a large fraction of leverage changes are outside of the firm's control (e.g., executive option exercise) or incur negligible adjustment costs (e.g., credit line usage). The frequency of proactive leverage adjustments is therefore lower than indicated by prior research that is based on accounting data, suggesting that costs of adjustment are higher, or the benefits lower, than previously thought.

  • Larry Cordell, Michael Roberts, Michael Schwert (Working), CLO Performance.

    Abstract: We present evidence on the performance of collateralized loan obligations (CLOs). CLO debt tranches have consistently outperformed their benchmarks over the last twenty years, though by a small amount. CLO equity tranches issued before the 2008 crisis outperformed their benchmarks by a wide margin -- a consequence of the ``term leverage'' in CLO structures that amplified the effects of the post-crisis economic recovery. Equity has underperformed its benchmarks since the crisis. Cross-sectional variation in CLO equity performance is driven to a large extent by persistent differences across CLO managers. Top-performing managers select loans with higher coupon rates and generate more value by trading in the secondary market.

  • Michael Roberts and Michael Schwert (Working), Interest Rates and the Design of Financial Contracts.

    Abstract: We show that variation in short-term nominal interest rates produces an endogenous response in the design of and commitment to corporate loan contracts. Interest rates are inversely related to the cash flow rights and positively related to the control rights granted to creditors. An implication of this contractual response is a sharp increase in the ex post renegotiation of contracts originated in low interest rate environments, as well as a muted effect of interest rate variation on the cost of debt capital. Our findings illustrate how the design of financial contracts in practice reflects a multi-dimensional tradeoff among contract features that aligns incentives and apportions risk among the contracting parties in a state-contingent manner.

  • Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, Matthew Gustafson, Ryan Lewis, Michael Schwert (Working), Sea Level Rise Exposure and Municipal Bond Yields.

    Abstract: We show that municipal bond markets began pricing sea level rise (SLR) exposure at the end of 2011, coinciding with upward revisions of SLR projections. The effect is present across maturities and is concentrated on the East and Gulf coasts, where storm risk is greatest. We apply a structural model of credit risk to show that municipal bond investors expect a one standard deviation increase in SLR exposure to correspond to a reduction of 3% to 8% in the present value or an increase of 2% to 4% in the volatility of the local government cash flows supporting debt repayment.

  • Michael Schwert (2020), Does Borrowing from Banks Cost More than Borrowing from the Market?, Journal of Finance, 75, pp. 905-947. 10.1111/jofi.12849

    Abstract: This paper investigates the pricing of bank loans relative to capital market debt. The analysis relies on a novel sample of syndicated loans matched with bond spreads from the same firm on the same date. After accounting for seniority, banks earn an economically large premium relative to the market price of credit risk. To quantify the premium, I apply credit pricing models that adjust bond spreads for priority and produce estimates of how the market would value loan cash flows. In a sample of secured term loans to non-investment-grade firms, the average loan premium is 140 to 170 bps or about half of the historical all-in-drawn spread. This is the first direct evidence of firms' willingness to pay for bank credit and raises questions about the nature of competition in the loan market.

  • Jongha Lim, Michael Schwert, Michael Weisbach (2019), The Economics of PIPEs, Journal of Financial Intermediation, Forthcoming. 10.1016/j.jfi.2019.100832

    Abstract: Private investments in public equities (PIPEs) are an important source of finance for public corporations. PIPE investor returns decline with holding periods, while time to exit depends on the issue’s registration status and underlying liquidity. We estimate PIPE investor returns adjusting for these factors. Our analysis, which is the first to estimate returns to investors rather than issuers, indicates that the average PIPE investor holds the stock for 384 days and earns an abnormal return of 19.7%. More constrained firms tend to issue PIPEs to hedge funds and private equity funds in offerings that have higher expected returns and higher volatility. PIPE investors’ abnormal returns appear to reflect compensation for providing capital to financially constrained firms.

  • Michael Schwert (2018), Bank Capital and Lending Relationships, Journal of Finance, 73, pp. 787-830. 10.1111/jofi.12604

    Abstract: This paper investigates the mechanisms behind the matching of banks and firms in the loan market and the implications of this matching for lending relationships, bank capital, and the provision of credit. I find that bank-dependent firms borrow from well capitalized banks, while firms with access to the bond market borrow from banks with less capital. This matching of bank-dependent firms with stable banks smooths cyclicality in aggregate credit provision and mitigates the effects of bank shocks on the real economy.

  • Michael Schwert (2017), Municipal Bond Liquidity and Default Risk, Journal of Finance, 72, pp. 1683-1722. 10.1111/jofi.12511

    Abstract: This paper examines the pricing of bonds issued by states and local governments. I use three distinct, complementary approaches to decompose municipal bond spreads into default and liquidity components, finding that default risk accounts for 74% to 84% of the average municipal bond spread after adjusting for tax-exempt status. The first approach estimates the liquidity component using transaction data, the second measures the default component with credit default swap data, and the third is a quasi-natural experiment that estimates changes in default risk around pre-refunding events. The price of default risk is high given the rare incidence of municipal default and implies a high risk premium.

Teaching

Past Courses

  • ECON199 - INDEPENDENT STUDY

    Individual study and research under the direction of a member of the Economics Department faculty. At a minimum, the student must write a major paper summarizing, unifying, and interpreting the results of the study. This is a one semester, one c.u. course. Please see the department for permission.

  • FNCE238 - CAPITAL MARKETS

    The objective of this course is to give you a broad understanding of the framework and evolution of U.S. capital markets, the instruments that are traded, the mechanisms that facilitate their trading and issuance, and the motivations of issuers and investors across different asset classes. The course will highlight the problems that capital market participants are seeking to solve, which you can use in your post-Wharton careers to evaluate future market innovations. We will consider design, issuance, and pricing of financial instruments, the arbitrage strategies which keep their prices in-line with one another,and the associated economic and financial stability issues. We will draw from events in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, which illustrate financing innovations and associated risks, as well as policy responses that can change the nature of these markets. In addition to course prerequisites, FNCE 101 is recommended.

  • FNCE399 - INDEPENDENT STUDY

    Integrates the work of the various courses and familiarizes the student with the tools and techniques of research.

  • FNCE738 - CAPITAL MARKETS

    The objective of this course is to give you a broad understanding of the instruments traded in modern financial markets, the mechanisms that facilitate their trading and issuance, as well as, the motivations of issuers and investors across different asset classes. The course will balance functional and institutional perspectives by highlighting the problems capital markets participants are seeking to solve, as well as, the existing assets and markets which have arisen to accomplish these goals. We will consider design, issuance, and pricing of financial instruments, the arbitrage strategies which keep their prices in-line with one another, and the associated economic and financial stability issues. The course is taught in lecture format, and illustrates key concepts by drawing on a collection of case studies and visits from industry experts. FNCE 613 is recommended but not required.

  • FNCE899 - INDEPENDENT STUDY

    Independent Study Projects require extensive independent work and a considerable amount of writing. ISP in Finance are intended to give students the opportunity to study a particular topic in Finance in greater depth than is covered in the curriculum. The application for ISP's should outline a plan of study that requires at least as much work as a typical course in the Finance Department that meets twice a week. Applications for FNCE 899 ISP's will not be accepted after the THIRD WEEK OF THE SEMESTER. ISP's must be supervised by a Standing Faculty member of the Finance Department.

Activity

Latest Research

Arthur Korteweg, Michael Schwert, Ilya Strebulaev (2020), Proactive Capital Structure Adjustments: Evidence from Corporate Filings, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Forthcoming.
All Research