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Selected publications

Summary: With increased political polarization, Americans are displaying more animus across, and affinity within, ideological identity groups. We argue this dynamic incentivizes firms to minimize ideological misalignments across their workforce by locating new establishments in areas that are ideologically proximate to their current operations. We further argue that the desire to minimize ideological distance to new establishments is stronger in knowledge-intensive industries and young organizations. We find support for these arguments through the analysis of over 220,000 new establishment openings from 2009 to 2014. Critically, we find the effect of ideological distance on location is stronger when societal polarization is high. Our theory, and findings, contribute to several literatures and advance our understanding of the impact of polarization on strategy.

Summary: Although recognized as a defining feature of the current political era, populism and its implications for non-market strategy remain undertheorized. We offer a framework that (a) conceptualizes populism and its progression over time; (b) outlines the risks populism generates for firms; and (c) theorizes effective nonmarket strategies under populism. Our framework anchors the political risk profile of populism in three interdependent elements: anti-establishment ideology, de-institutionalization, and short-term policy bias. These elements jointly shape the policymaking dy-namics and institutional risks for firms under populism. Our analysis shows how firms can calibrate two nonmarket strategies – political ties and corporate social responsibility – to mitigate populism-related risks. We specify how particular configurations of political ties and CSR activities, aimed at the populist leadership, bureaucrats, political opposition, and societal stakeholders, minimize risk under populism. Further, we theorize how the effectiveness of specific attributes of political ties and CSR – namely their relative covertness (more vs. less concealed) and their relative focus (narrowly vs. widely targeted) – varies as a function of firm type (insiders vs. outsiders) and the probability of populist regime collapse. Finally, we address how motivated reasoning may bias firms’ assessments of regime fragility and resulting strategy choices.

2021. Risk is Relative: Heterogeneous Responses to Institutional Risks for Foreign Investment. International Studies Quarterly. 65:3, 594-605. (co-authored with Quintin H. Beazer).

Summary: Are economic actors equally sensitive to institutional conditions? While existing research recognizes that institutions can have varying effects on actors’ interests, the implicit assumption is that actors are homogeneous in how sensitive they are to their institutional environment. We investigate this assumption in the context of foreign direct investment, arguing that actors from countries with weaker institutions will be less affected by information about host country institutional conditions—both good and bad. We test this argument using survey data from a diverse group of managers-in-training at an international business school. We find that when asked to evaluate a potential foreign investment location, respondents from developing countries are significantly less sensitive to information about the host country’s courts than their counterparts from developed economies. In contrast, we find that economic actors from both developed and developing countries respond similarly to information about the stability of economic policies. The findings suggest that sensitivity to the risks and safeguards of certain institutional conditions vary systematically across actors, depending on both the home environment to which economic actors have been exposed and the type of host institution.

Summary: The recent revival of populism and nationalism across many parts of the world threatens to unravel the market-oriented reforms of the previous era. We examine the impact of the reversal of a previously adopted market-expanding policy on organizational performance. We argue that these policy reversals are contested; affected firms undertake a broad range of political and nonmarket activities to alter the implementation of the policy and buffer themselves from adverse consequences. However, these activities can increase policy uncertainty while making new demands on management, leading to diminished investment and a reallocation of finite managerial resources. The result is that firm performance on operational parameters suffers, including in locations that are not directly affected by the policy reversal. To empirically isolate this effect, we exploit an unexpected policy reversal in the context of telecommunications firms in India. Through an example caselet, we first outline the political and nonmarket activities of one firm affected by the unexpected policy reversal. We then empirically examine the performance of affected and unaffected telecommunication firms using a difference-in-differences approach to provide support for our arguments.

2018. The Conditional Nature of Political Risk: How Home Institutions Influence the Location of Foreign Direct Investment. The American Journal of Political Science. 62:2, 470-485. (Co-authored with Quintin H. Beazer)

Summary: What determines whether countries' institutions attract or deter investment? Although existing theories predict that multinational enterprises (MNEs) will avoid locations where institutions cannot constrain the opportunistic behavior of public and private actors, we argue that the attractiveness of host country institutions depends on the institutions that investing firms have encountered at home. By shaping firms' practices and capabilities, home country institutions help determine the institutional environment that firms are best prepared to deal with when investing abroad. Applying this argument specifically to judicial independence, we test our predictions using multiple datasets at different levels of analysis: firm-level data on MNEs' foreign subsidiaries, data on bilateral foreign direct investment (FDI) positions, and longitudinal data on bilateral FDI flows. We find that states with independent judiciaries are particularly attractive to investment from countries also possessing independent courts. Similarly, FDI from countries with low judicial independence goes disproportionately to host countries lacking independent judiciaries.

2017. Policy Risk, Strategic Decisions, and Contagion Effects: Firm-Specific Considerations.  Strategic Management Journal, 38:3, 732–750. (Co-authored with Caterina Moschieri)


  • An earlier version of this article received the Best Paper Award at the 2015 Reading University-UNCTAD International Business Conference

Summary: What is the impact of change in the firm-specific environment on firm strategy? We argue that when firms directly experience a negative change in their policy environment that is specific to them, they negatively reassess their exposure to policy risk and their ability to manage their policy environment, which makes them more likely to undertake a divestiture. We analyze formal disputes between firms and governments that arise from adverse changes in policy and find that following a dispute firms are more likely to divest in the country where the dispute occurs and in other countries in the same region. However, the impact of disputes on divestitures is firm specific as it applies only to firms directly involved in a dispute.

2016. Frame or Get Framed: The Critical Role of Issue Framing in Nonmarket Management. California Management Review, 58:3, 66-87. (Co-authored with David Bach)

Summary: How a social or political issue is framed shapes the 'nonmarket' context that surrounds it. Issue frames are not random; rather they are the product of strategic behavior by firms, government agencies, NGOs, and similar actors. Frames are not fixed and issues can be reframed over time. Framing is a powerful strategic tool that enables firms to shape the structure of the nonmarket environment to their advantage. The article identifies and illustrates five distinct pathways through which firms can shape different dimensions of the nonmarket environment.

2015. Balancing Design Objectives: Analyzing New Data on Voting Rules in Intergovernmental Organizations. The Review of International Organizations, 10:3, 377-402. (Co-authored with Autumn Lockwood Payton)

Summary: This article presents a new data set on one of the most visible features of institutional design - voting rules. The data set covers 266 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) that vary in size and substantive scope and includes data on IGO issue area and founding membership characteristics that complement the measures on voting rules. The article outlines the characteristics and categorization of voting rules in the data set and establishes the broader importance of voting rules by illustrating how they help states achieve four core institutional design objectives: control, compliance, responsiveness, and effective membership. The utility of the data set and patterns in the relationships between its variables are identified through the evaluation of preliminary propositions connecting institutional context and voting rule selection. The preliminary findings emerging from this analysis establish a platform for further analyses of voting rules in IGOs, as well as other dimensions of the design and function of IGOs.

Summary: International institutions help governments make credible commitments to other state and non-state actors by raising the costs of commitment violation. However, in doing so these institutions generate sovereignty costs for national governments by constraining the autonomy they have to develop and implement policy. In this paper, I argue that governments respond to this trade-off between the credibility of commitments and policy autonomy differently depending on their time horizons and this shapes their preferences over the design of credibility enhancing institutions. Governments with long time horizons expect to govern in the future, anticipate that conditions may shift over time, and therefore they seek institutional designs that will afford them greater freedom to modify policies in response to changing economic and political conditions. Governments with shorter time horizons, on the other hand, do not anticipate being in power long into the future and therefore are less concerned about maintaining greater “room to move”. This argument is developed in the context of bilateral investment treaties (BITs), focusing in particular on the legalization of obligation in national treatment commitments, and it is tested using an original data set of the design of national treatment obligations in a random sample of 342 BITs. I find that net importers of FDI with longer time horizons are more likely to build in greater policy autonomy in their BITs by scaling back the legalization of their national treatment obligations and that this relationship is robust to controlling for selection into investment treaties.

Current projects & working papers

"Corporate Political Influence Around the World" (with Srividya Jandhyala)
“Institutions, Political Activities and Firm Strategy: How Business Associations Affect Contracting” (with Quintin H. Beazer)
"CEOs and Political Donations: Are the Just Like Regular People?" (with Benjamin Barber IV)
“Public Opinion, Political Risk and Multinational Firms: Evidence from Cross-National Survey Experiments” (with Quintin H. Beazer, Raphael Cunha and Srividya Jandhyala)
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