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Firm Survival and Performance in Privately Held ESOP Companies
Abstract and Figures
PurposeUsing a population study, we provide evidence on the important but understudied issue of company survival under employee ownership, as well as on the performance effects of employee ownership and the issue of whether employee ownership substitutes for other pension benefits. Design/methodology/approachCompany survival and pension benefits are assessed using a unique dataset from Dun & Bradstreet of privately held Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) companies over the 1988–1999 period, matched to non-ESOP companies in the same industry. Performance is assessed using pre/post-comparisons of ESOP adopters in the 1988–1994 period. FindingsPrivately held ESOP companies in 1988 were only half as likely as non-ESOP firms to go bankrupt or close over the 1988–1999 period, and only three-fifths as likely to disappear for any reason. The ESOP companies had significantly higher post-adoption annual employment and sales growth, along with higher sales per employee. ESOP companies are four times more likely than their non-ESOP pairs to have defined benefit pension plan and other forms of defined contribution plans. Research implicationsThe greater survival was not explained by higher productivity, or by greater compensation flexibility. The higher survival may instead be tied to complementary policies adopted along with ESOPs to create a more committed and engaged workforce that contributes ideas to enhance survival and is more flexible when economic difficulties arise. The pension results are consistent with other studies on compensation under employee ownership, suggesting that employee ownership is generally used as a form of efficiency wage to provide above-market compensation. Social implicationsHigher survival among ESOP companies could result in lower job loss and unemployment, potentially providing a public policy rationale for support of employee ownership. Originality/valueThe chapter provides the first examination of company survival in privately held ESOP companies, and one of the few examinations of how ESOPs relate to other pension benefits.
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