Responding to activist short sellers: Allegations, firm responses, and outcomes

Abstract

This study provides descriptive evidence on how firms respond to activist short seller reports and how these responses are associated with outcomes for the targeted firms. We show that the frequency of these reports has grown substantially in recent years. Although we find that firms respond only 31% of the time, this rate increases substantially when the report is accompanied by significantly negative abnormal returns and when the report contains new evidence. Not responding is associated with a less negative stock price response at report release and fewer adverse outcomes. Firms that launch internal investigations following the report release have significantly higher subsequent rates of stock exchange delisting and SEC enforcement actions, and lower rates of being acquired. Overall, our results highlight the impact of activist short sellers on target firms and that firm responses are associated with material outcomes.

Participating Institutions

TRR 266‘s main locations are Paderborn University (Coordinating University), HU Berlin, and University of Mannheim. All three locations have been centers for accounting and tax research for many years. They are joined by researchers from LMU Munich, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, ESMT Berlin, Goethe University Frankfurt and Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg who share the same research agenda.