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On a Spending Spree: The Real Effects of Heuristics in Managerial Budgets


Paul H. Décaire

Arizona State University (ASU) - Finance Department

Denis Sosyura

Arizona State University



Using micro data on managerial expenditures, we uncover heuristics in capital budgets, such as nominal rigidity, anchoring, and sharp reset deadlines. Such heuristics engender managerial opportunism and erode investment efficiency. Managers with a budget surplus increase investment sharply before budget deadlines, and such investments yield lower sales, weaker margins, and more negative NPV projects. Managers who reach a budget constraint early in the fiscal cycle halt further spending until their budget is reset, irrespective of investment options. These effects are stronger at firms with more hierarchical layers and a greater subordinates-to-executives ratio. Overall, simplifying budgeting rules engender strategic behavior and wasteful spending.

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