The international bond market is the largest component of the international capital market. Previous research shows that the liability of foreignness (LOF) imposes significant costs on international debt contracting. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of foreign institutional shareholders (FISs) on the costs of international debt contracting. While the presence of FISs could lead to a reduction in LOF-related costs, it can also lead to an increase in the costs arising from agency conflicts between shareholders and bondholders. We examine the impact of FISs on the prevalence of restrictive bond covenants using a sample of 956 Yankee bonds from 26 countries over the period 2001–2019. We find a significantly negative relation between FIS ownership and bond covenants. This inverse relation is strongest for U.S. institutional ownership of Yankee bonds, and for covenants designed to mitigate opportunistic behavior such as claim dilution and wealth transfers. We also show that the inverse relation between U.S. institutional ownership and restrictive bond covenants is moderated by country- and firm-level variables related to corporate governance, information asymmetry, and agency costs of debt. Additional analyses show that U.S. institutional ownership has a significant pricing effect on Yankee bond investors by lowering an issuer’s cost of borrowing.
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