In the thirty or so years since the Modigliani-Miller theorem, scholars have worked to relax the theorem’s assumptions in order to obtain a better understanding of the capital structure of firms.2 This work has produced some important insights but has not yet delivered a fully coherent theory of optimal capital structure. For example, at present we do not understand very well the distinguishing features of debt and equity or why these claims, as opposed to the many instruments that could be chosen, are most frequently issued by firms. Given this state of affairs, existing explanations of the debt-equity ratio must be seen as still preliminary, as must efforts to use these explanations to understand global trends such as the large increases in leverage in the United States and United Kingdom during the 1980s.
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