Do foreign institutional investors affect international contracting? Evidence from bond covenants

HFRC Working Paper Series | Version 08/2021


We examine the impact of foreign institutional shareholders on the prevalence of restrictive bond covenants using a sample of 959 Yankee bonds from 29 countries over the period 2001–2019. We find a significantly negative relation between foreign institutional ownership and debt covenants. This inverse relation is strongest for U.S. institutional ownership of foreign-issued Yankee bonds, and for covenants designed to mitigate such opportunistic behavior as claims dilution and wealth transfers. We also show that the inverse relation between U.S. institutional ownership and restrictive debt 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 the issuer’s cost of borrowing.