Ali Sanati

Assistant Professor of Finance
Kogod School of Business
American University

Email: | CV | Google Scholar | SSRN | Official profile

Research interests: corporate finance, capital structure, capital raising, dynamic structural models.


Book Chapter:

"The Trade-off Theory of Corporate Capital Structure" with Hengjie Ai and Murray Frank.
Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance, 2021. [published version]

Working Papers:

"How Does Removing the Tax Benefits of Debt Affect Firms? Evidence from the 2017 US Tax Reform"

Covered in: Columbia Law School Blue Sky Blog, Duke Law School FinReg Blog
Presentations (including scheduled): 2023 AFA, 2022 WFA, 2022 FIRS, 2022 MFA, 2022 E(astern)FA, 2022 AsianFA, American University, Sharif University of Tech.

Abstract: Despite extensive efforts, the impact of the tax benefits of debt on firm decisions is an open question. The 2017 US tax reform creates an opportunity to directly estimate the effects. The reform limits the tax advantage of debt for all firms except for small businesses with average sales below $25 million. I use the exception threshold in a regression discontinuity design and show that corporate debt declines nearly dollar for dollar as the present value of the tax benefits of debt shrinks, but equity financing is not affected. Treated firms decrease their investments and hiring, consistent with the rise in the cost of external financing. The effects are similar in public and private companies. Although the new law disproportionately reduces the tax benefits of debt in small firms, the evidence suggest that the estimates likely provide a lower bound for the effects in large companies. Overall, I document a first-order role for tax incentives that affect the cost of capital in shaping corporate financial and real policies.

"Dissecting the Listing Gap: Mergers, Private Equity, or Regulation?" with Gabriele Lattanzio and William Megginson. [Internet Appendix]

Covered in: Columbia Law School Blue Sky blog
Presentations (including scheduled): 2019 CICF, 2019 DC Juniors conference, 2019 EFA, 2019 FMA (Latin America), 2018 Paris Financial Management (keynote speech), 2019 INFINITI (University of Glasgow), 2019 M&A Research Centre Conference at City University London, and 2019 SIOE (Stockholm School of Economics), 2018 Economics and Management of Networks, 2022 World Finance Conference, Florida State University, Peking University, SUNY Buffalo, University of Alabama, University of Graz, University of Oklahoma, Universit ́e Paris Dauphine, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

Abstract: The abnormal decline in the number of US public firms is often blamed on merger activity, private equity investments, and stock market regulations. We compare and quantify the effects of these channels on the evolution of the US listing gap in a unified framework. In the US, an extra 100 mergers is associated with 22.01 additional missing public firms, whereas an extra 100 private equity deals is associated with 3.62 fewer missing listings. Regulatory changes, particularly the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, are also estimated to have a significant role in the decline of US listings. A one standard deviation increase in regulatory costs is associated with a 15.87% expansion of the US listing gap, which is equivalent to 892.8 missing public US firms. We also specify the types of mergers and private equity deals that most strongly affect listings in the US. Finally, we document that listing gaps emerge in other developed economies, with a few years of delay. The non-US listing gaps are driven by similar forces as in the US.

*A previous version of this paper was titled "Listing Gaps, Merger Waves, and the Privatization of American Equity Finance."

"How Does Labor Mobility Affect Corporate Leverage and Investment?" [Internet Appendix]

Presentations: AFA (PhD poster session), EFA, Econometric Society (North America), FMA, MFA, Minnesota MARS, American University, Cornerstone Research, Florida State University, University of Minnesota, University of Oklahoma, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abstract: Using a new measure of labor mobility instrumented by state-level shocks, I find that an increase in worker mobility negatively affects firms' average leverage and investment rates, but only in firms that rely on high-skill workers. I develop a dynamic model that provides an economic mechanism to rationalize these findings. In the model, firms make investment and financing decisions, hire labor with different levels of skill and mobility, and set wages through bargaining. Skilled workers with high mobility receive high-value outside job offers more frequently. Firms that rely on this type of labor operate with low leverage in anticipation of the outside offer shocks, in order to retain their workforce against those shocks. The differences in investment are generated both by the capital-labor complementarity and by the differences in financing policies, which affect the cost of capital. I estimate the model to quantify the effect of changes in labor mobility on different aspects of firms' decisions. Counterfactual analyses imply that policies that exogenously change workers' ability to move among firms have a sizable impact on the leverage, investment, hiring, and wages of high-skill firms. My results highlight the importance of considering this channel in evaluating the economic impact of policies that change workers' mobility.

"Rational Stock Market Catering" with Murray Frank. [Internet Appendix]

Presentations: Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), Peking University, Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance of Tsinghua University, and University of Minnesota

Abstract: Tests using American data from 1970 to 2015 support the behavioral hypothesis that firms Cater to investor whims. We show that the standard tests cannot distinguish between the behavioral interpretation, and a rational model in which the firm optimally chooses investment, equity issuance, and dividends; while investors optimally choose consumption, equity, and bank account deposits. The rational model shows the importance of two-way financial flows between investors and firms that are generally ignored in the literature. Using booms, sentiment, and behavioral mispricing measures, we construct new tests of behavioral Catering Theory. In all cases that theory is rejected.

Work in Progress:

"Corporate Debt Constraints" with Murray Frank.

"Data Processing, Information Asymmetry, and Financing Decisions" with Ioannis Spyridopoulos.

"Comparing Allocation Efficiency in Private and Public Equity Markets" with Ioannis Spyridopoulos.


American University, Kogod School of Business.

Advanced Quant Methods and Machine Learning in Finance (G)

Business Finance (UG)

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management.

Finance Fundamentals (UG)

      • Excellence in Teaching Award, Carlson School of Management, 2016.

      • John Willard Herrick Memorial Teaching Award, Finance Department, 2016.