Signaling Legitimacy to Foreign Investors: Evidence from Chinese IPOs on U.S. Markets


From 1999-2010 120 Chinese emerging growth firms undertook initial public stock offerings on U.S. markets. This provided a remarkable natural experiment for exploring how this class of organizations from a radically different political economy established their legitimacy and how, once established, this legitimacy permitted organizational and personnel flexibility for later firms. The increased legitimacy allowed changes in the backgrounds of the members of the IPO top management team (TMT) and independent members of the board of directors (BoD). We find that overall composition of both the TMT and BoD in terms of experience in the U.S. decreased and “Chinese-ness” increased, but at different rates. For the operational TMT members, U.S. experience decreased dramatically over time, except for the CFO who is the representative of investors within the TMT. Similarly, on the BoD, the venture capitalists continued to have high levels of US experience, while the other independent members tracked the TMT in having less US experience. In this increased legitimacy allows the acceptance of “foreign” operational management, but investors are less lenient in terms of ensuring that their “monitors,” the CFO and venture capitalists, should show evidence, i.e., U.S. experience and background, that they adhere to the investor’s values.

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Xu Jin
Donald Patton
Publication date: 
May 15, 2015
Publication type: 
Working Paper