MICHAEL JUNHO LEE

Financial Economist at the NY Fed

 

RESEARCH


I develop a framework of the buildup and outbreak of financial crises in an asymmetric information setting. In equilibrium, two distinct economic states arise endogenously: “normal times,” periods of modest investment, and “booms,” periods of expansionary investment. Normal times occur when the intermediary sector realizes moderate investment opportunities. Booms occur when the intermediary sector realizes many investment opportunities, but also occur when it realizes very few opportunities. As a result, investors face greater uncertainty in booms. During a boom, subsequent arrival of negative information about an intermediary asset results in large downward shifts in investors’ confidence about the underlying quality of longterm assets. A crisis of confidence ensues. Investors collectively force costly early liquidation of the intermediated assets and move capital to safe assets, in a flight-to-quality episode.

(with Selman Erol)

How do insiders respond to regulatory oversight? History suggests that they form sophisticated networks to share information and circumvent regulation. We develop a theory of the formation and regulation of information transmission networks. We show that agents with sufficiently complex networks bypass any given regulatory environment. In response, regulators employ broad regulatory boundaries to combat gaming, giving rise to regulatory ambiguity. Tighter regulation induces agents to migrate transmission activity from existing social networks to a core-periphery insider network. A small group of agents endogenously arise as intermediaries for the bulk of information. We provide centrality measures that identify intermediaries.

(with Daniel Neuhann)

We study a dynamic model of collateralized lending under adverse selection in which the quality of collateral assets is endogenously determined by hidden effort. Complementarities in incentives lead to non-ergodic dynamics: asset quality and output grow when asset quality is high, but stagnate or deteriorate otherwise. Inefficiencies remain even in the most efficient competitive equilibrium – investment and output are vulnerable to spells of lending market illiquidity, and these spells may persist because of suboptimal effort. Nevertheless, benevolent regulators without commitment can destroy
welfare by prioritizing liquidity over incentives. Optimal interventions with commitment call for large, long-term subsidies in excess of what is required to restore liquidity.

(with Jessica Jeffers)

We develop a measure of corporate culture using coworker connectivity on LinkedIn’s platform, and show it is strongly correlated with positive employee relations and satisfaction. Using state-level changes to employment agreements as shocks to explicit contracts, we find that these changes significantly impact employees in weakly connected firms, but have little to no effect on those at strongly connected firms. Our results suggest that firms with strong corporate culture are less dependent on explicit contracts to retain human capital. We document implications for firms’ investment decisions and other outcomes.

(with Rod Garratt, Antoine Martin, and Robert Townsend)

Dealers, who strategically supply liquidity to traders, are subject to both liquidity and adverse selection costs. While liquidity costs can be mitigated through inter-dealer trading, individual dealers’ private motives to acquire information compromise inter-dealer market liquidity. Post-trade information disclosure can improve market liquidity by counteracting dealers’ incentives to become better informed through their market-making activities. Asymmetric disclosure, however, exacerbates the adverse selection problem in inter-dealer markets, in turn decreasing equilibrium liquidity provision. A non-monotonic relationship may arise between the partial release of post-trade information and market liquidity. This points to a practical concern: a strategic post-trade platform has incentives to maximize adverse selection and may choose to release information in a way that minimizes equilibrium liquidity provision.

LABOR REACTIONS TO FINANCIAL DISTRESS: EVIDENCE FROM LINKEDIN ACTIVITY

(with Jeff Gortmaker and Jessica Jeffers)

We investigate workers' reactions to signals of their firms' financial condition using anonymized networking activity on LinkedIn. We show significant increases in weekly connection formation following the announcement of possible impending downgrades to a firm's credit rating. More senior, more skilled, and less mobile workers have the strongest reactions, but increased connection activity appears in both workers who leave and workers who stay at the firm. Reactions to firms' financial conditions are asymmetric: we do not find evidence of a change in networking activity for positive credit rating news. We also do not find similar reactions following economic signals such as missed earnings. These results point to possible unique labor implications of debt financing.