This study examines how Confucianism, as an informal system, alleviates manager–shareholder conflicts and thus decreases managerial behavior of keeping higher levels of cash reserves. This study also investigates whether formal governance mechanisms (state ownership and institutional investors) moderate the relationship between Confucianism and cash holdings.Design/methodology/approachThis study opts a sample of Chinese listed firms over the period of 2004–2015. The geographical-proximity-based method was followed to measure Confucianism, which is the distance between a firm's registered address and the national Confucianism centers.FindingsThe results indicate that Confucianism adversely influences cash holdings. The authors’ findings illustrate that Confucian culture promotes ethical behavior, and therefore, firms in a strong Confucianism environment keep a lower level of cash reserves. The authors further document that the effect of Confucianism on cash holding is weaker for state-owned firms but stronger for firms with low institutional ownership.Practical implicationsThe findings provide implications for policymakers, academicians, and corporations. The results suggest that culture can reduce cash holdings. Especially, in emerging markets, such as China, where formal mechanisms are relatively less effective, informal institutions can serve an alternative system for alleviating adverse effects of agency conflicts.Originality/valueThis study contributes to the literature in two ways. First, this study contributes to cash holdings literature by showing that culture (Confucianism) is negatively associated with cash holdings. Second, this study extends the incumbent literature that seeks to explore how Confucian culture influences corporate behavior. To the best of the authors knowledge, this is the first study that identifies that Confucianism is associated with cash holdings.
International Journal of Emerging Markets – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 21, 2020
Keywords: China; Confucianism; Cash holdings; Agency conflicts; State ownership