SYNOPSIS

I examine Sarbanes-Oxley's (SOX) effect on capital structure. I find that SOX is associated with higher long-term debt ratios, as firms listed in the U.S. raise their long-term debt ratios by 2 to 3 percentage points. This finding is consistent with the idea that, although the reduction in information asymmetry associated with SOX could prompt managers to increase equity financing, debt is still safer and less costly than equity in the SOX era. Further analysis shows that the increase in debt occurs in the two quarters prior to SOX, suggesting that firms anticipate a higher cost of debt after SOX and acquire debt while it is relatively cheap. Also, firms that heavily (lightly) manage earnings prior to SOX use less (more) debt after SOX. This result is consistent with the view that firms that aggressively manage earnings before SOX reveal intrinsically weaker earnings after SOX, casting doubt on those firms' ability to repay debt and relegating those firms to issue equity for financing purposes.

JEL Classifications: G32; G38.

Data Availability: Data available upon request.

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