Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Business Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



My dissertation focuses on two broad questions. First, why do shareholder’s preferences vary, and how various agents persuade them? And second, how public perceptions about the financial sector and regulations affect economic outcomes? While my research plan contributes to the two distinct fields of literature, a unifying theme of my research is the use of innovative machine learning techniques to overcome the empirical challenges that would typically prevent measuring these sentiments objectively.

In my Chapter 1, I use a supervised machine learning model on mutual fund family’s proxy voting choices to estimate their preferences. I find that hedge fund activists tailor their campaigns to appeal to the fund families that own a larger share in the targeted firm. Well-tailored campaigns solicit higher engagement and support from the fund families and are more likely to succeed. My findings suggest that activism helps push shareholders’ implicit agendas. As per my knowledge, the paper is the first to employ a machine learning model to extract mutual fund preferences, opening up possibilities to analyze other issues where decisions of these institutes matter.

In Chapter 2 with Professor Gormley, we find that mutual fund families conduct more governance research and are less likely to follow proxy advisor recommendations when a firm’s bonds represent a larger proportion of their overall portfolio. Our findings suggest that the bond holdings contribute to institutions’ incentive to be engaged monitors. In Chapter 3 with Professor Manela and Hongyi Liu, we measure popular sentiment towards finance using a computational linguistics approach applied to millions of books published in eight countries over hundreds of years. We find that the finance sentiment declines after epidemics and earthquakes, but rises following droughts, floods, and landslides. These heterogeneous effects of natural disasters suggest finance sentiment responds differently to the realization of insured versus uninsured risks.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Todd Gormley

Committee Members

Radha Gopalan, Asaf Manela, Mark Leary, Alon Brav,