Actively Keeping Secrets from Creditors: Evidence from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act

Scott B Guernsey, Kose John, and Lubomir P Litov

We find that an increase in a firm’s incentives to use trade secrets to protect its intellectual property results in a more actively managed capital structure. Exploiting U.S. states’ adoption of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act as a positive “shock” in the protection afforded to trade secrets, we find that firms covered by the Act reduce debt levels while increasing investments in intangibles. Additional tests suggest that firms fund these financing and investment activities by issuing more equity. Consistent with an increase in overall intangibility magnifying contracting problems with creditors, we find that covered firms experience higher costs of debt.