Creating Intangible Capital – Rotterdam School of Management – document

Creating Intangible Capital

Robin Döttling | Rotterdam School of Management

2019-11-13

We propose a new framework for intangible capital creation by the joint investment of firm resources and skilled human capital, subject to a double moral hazard. First, key employees are free to leave with some intangibles, so firms must reward them in deferred form, creating uninsurable risk. Thus high-intangible firms require less upfront funding and have larger free cash flow, yet still follow a prudent financial policy to insure unvested claims. Second, firm spending on intangible investment is easily diverted. Promising large payoffs to human capital exacerbates moral hazard, as diversion prompts skilled employees to depart and forfeit unvested claims. Balancing incentives requires firms to have more cash in good states (to reduce the cost of compensation), and more inside equity to avoid diversion risk. The model can explain several puzzling trends and generates new implications for measuring investment, firm value, and returns to labor.

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