Boris Vallée's Academic Page

Torstein Hagen Associate Professor of Finance

Harvard Business School 

Tel: (617) 496-4604

Email: bvallee@hbs.edu

Boris Vallée is the Torstein Hagen Associate Professor in the Finance Unit of Harvard Business School.

Professor Vallée’s research traces the motives behind and the effects of financial innovation in recent decades. He pursues this line of inquiry through empirical studies of corporate finance, household finance, public finance, and financial institutions, developing novel data sets and measures. He is also actively contributing to the Labor and Finance literature. His work has been cited by Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe. He teaches Real Property in the MBA elective curriculum, and previously taught the Finance II (Corporate Finance) course in the MBA required curriculum. He is an Associate Editor at the Journal of Corporate Finance, a member of the scientific comittee of the Autorites des Marches Financiers (AMF), and a fellow of the Luohan Academy.

He holds a Ph.D. in finance and a M.Sc. in management, both from HEC Paris, and is a CFA Charterholder. Before beginning his doctoral studies, Professor Vallée was an investment banker at Deutsche Bank in London.



( 1 )

with Claire Célérier, Quarterly Journal of Economics 132, no. 3 (August 2017): 1469–1508
Winner of 2014 AQR Top Finance Graduate Award
Winner of the Ieke van den Burg Prize for Research on Systemic Risk (ESRB)
Selected for the 2014 WFA Annual Meetings, and the 2014 EFA Annual Meetings 

This paper investigates the rationale for issuing complex securities to retail investors. We focus on a large market of investment products targeted exclusively at households: retail-structured products in Europe. We hypothesize that banks strategically use product complexity to cater to yield-seeking households by making product returns more salient and shrouding risk. We find four empirical results consistent with this view. First, we show that structured products with complex payoff formulas offer higher headline rates, and that they more frequently expose investors to a complete loss of their investment. We then document that banks are more inclined to issue high-headline-rate and more complex products in low-rate environments. Finally, we find that high-headline-rate and more complex products are more profitable for banks, and that their ex post performance is lower.

( 2 )

with Christophe Pérignon, Review of Financial Studies 30, no. 6 (June 2017): 1903–1934
Selected for the 2015 NBER Corporate Finance, the 2012 WFA Annual Meetings, the 2017 AFA Annual Meetings, and the 2013 EFA Annual Meeting

We examine the toxic loans sold by investment banks to local governments. Using proprietary data, we show that politicians strategically use these products to increase chances of being re-elected. Consistent with greater incentives to hide the cost of debt, toxic loans are utilized significantly more frequently within highly indebted local governments. Incumbent politicians from politically contested areas are also more likely to turn to toxic loans. Using a difference-in-differences methodology, we show that politicians time the election cycle by implementing more transactions immediately before an election rather than after. Politicians also exhibit herding behavior. Our findings demonstrate how financial innovation can foster strategic behaviors.

( 3 )

with Claire Célérier, Review of Financial Studies 32, no. 10 (October 2019): 4005–4040
Selected for the 2015 NBER Corporate Finance Meeting, the 2015 FRA Conference, the 2016 Texas Finance Festival, the 2015 AEA and the 2014 EFA Annual Meetings

To study the role of talent in finance workers' pay, we exploit a special feature of the French higher education system. Wage returns to talent have been significantly higher and have risen faster in finance since the 1980s than in other sectors. Both wage returns to project size and the elasticity of project size to talent are also higher in this industry. Last, the share of performance pay varies more for talent in finance. These findings are supportive of finance wages reflecting the competitive assignment of talent in an industry that exhibits a high complementarity between talent and scale. 

( 4 )

with Yao Zeng, Review of Financial Studies 32, FinTech Special Edition, no. 5 (May 2019): 1939–1982 
Selected to the 2018 Texas Finance Festival

Marketplace lending relies on large-scale loan screening by investors, a major deviation from the traditional banking paradigm. Theoretically, participation of sophisticated investors in marketplace lending improves screening outcomes but also creates adverse selection. In maximizing loan volume, the platform trades of these two forces by choosing intermediate levels of platform pre-screening and information provision to investors. We use novel investor-level data to test these predictions. We empirically show that more sophisticated investors screen loans differently and systematically outperform less sophisticated investors. However, the outperformance shrinks when the platform reduces information provision to investors, consistent with platforms managing adverse selection.  

( 5 )

Review of Corporate Finance Studies 8, no. 2 (September 2019): 235–259
Editor's Choice
Winner of the 2020 RCFS Rising Scholar Award
Winner of the Arthur Warga Award for Best Paper in Fixed Income (SFS Cavalcade Conference)
Selected for the 2016 AEA annual meetings, 2016 FIRS Conference and 2015 Cavalcade Conference

This paper studies liability management exercises (LME) by banks, which have comparable regulatory capital effects than contingent capital triggers. LMEs are concentrated on low capitalization situations, both in the cross-section and in the time series and are frequently associated with equity issuances. These exercises prove effective at improving bank capitalization levels. The market reaction to LMEs is positive and mostly accrues to debt holders. These findings strengthen the case for innovative liabilities securities as a tool to improve bank resilience. 

( 6 )

with Laurent Calvet, Claire Celerier and Paolo Sodini, CEPR Working Paper, No. 14955
Journal of Finance, forthcoming
Selected to 2020 NBER Asset Pricing, the 2017 NBER Behavioral Finance, the 2018 NBER Household Finance, the 2018 WFA, and the 2017 EFA meetings

This paper shows that securities with non-linear payoff designs can foster household risk-taking. We demonstrate this effect by exploiting the introduction of capital guarantee products in Sweden between 2002 and 2007. Their fast and broad adoption is associated with an increase in expected financial portfolio returns. The effect is especially strong for households with low risk appetite ex ante. These empirical facts are consistent with a life-cycle model in which households have pessimistic beliefs or preferences combining loss aversion and narrow framing. Our results illustrate how security design can mitigate behavioral biases to increase mean household portfolio returns.


Working Papers

( 7 )

with Victoria IvashinaNBER Working Paper Series, No. 27316
Revise and Resubmit at the Journal of Financial Economics
Selected for the 2019 WFA, the 2019 FIRS, and the 2018 EFA meetings

Using novel data on 1,240 credit agreements, we investigate sources of contractual complexity in the leveraged loan market. While negative covenants are widespread, carve-out and deductible clauses that weaken them are as frequent. We propose simple measures of contractual weakness, which uniquely explain the market-wide price reaction that followed the 2017 J.Crew restructuring, a high profile use of such contractual elements. Leveraged buyouts have significantly weaker loan agreements, and a larger non-bank funding of a loan is conducive to weaker contractual terms. Weak covenants translate to modestly higher issuance spreads. Overall, our findings are consistent with sophisticated borrowers catering to a reaching-for-yield phenomenon by exploiting contractual complexity.

( 8 )

with Jean-Noel Barrot, Thorsten Martin and Julien Sauvagnat
Selected for the 2019 NBER Corporate Finance, the 2021 WFA, the 2021 EFA, and the 2021 North America Cavalcade meetings

We investigate the labor market effects of a loan guarantee program targeting French SMEs in the midst of the financial crisis. Exploiting worker-level panel data and differences in regional treatment intensity in a border discontinuity design, we find that the program has a significant and persistent positive impact on workers' employment and earnings trajectories, in particular for those initially employed in high-unemployment areas. However, the program dampens workers' reallocation towards productive firms, especially for workers with high earnings capacity. In the aggregate, the program appears to be revenue-positive for the government, as the savings in unemployment benefits outweigh the losses from the defaults of guaranteed loans, and the number of jobs preserved by the program is of comparable magnitude as the number of workers prevented from moving to a more productive firm.

( 9 )

with Pulak Ghosh and Yao Zeng

This study provides a new perspective on the rise of FinTech lending by uncovering its informational synergy with cashless payments. Theoretically, FinTech lenders screen borrowers more efficiently when borrowers use cashless payments that produce transferable and verifiable information. In turn, because borrowers expect lenders to rely on such payment information to screen them, a strategic consideration to stand out from non-adopting borrowers pushes more borrowers to adopt cashless payments. Using novel loan application data from a leading Indian FinTech lender targeting small-businesses, we find that a larger use of cashless payments predicts a higher likelihood of loan approval, a lower interest rate, and lower default conditional on the interest rate obtained. These relationships are stronger for firms of higher observable risk, and for firms of higher quality that can be only inferred from payments. The uncovered synergy supports the development of an alternative banking model without a balance sheet or traditional banking relationships.

( 10 )

Selected for the 2021 NBER Asset Pricing, the 2022 AFA, the 2021 Texas Finance Festival, 2021 EFA, and the 2021 CICF
with Julien Sauvagnat

We examine the response from both local governments and their voters to a sudden increase in public debt burden. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the ex post cost of toxic loans, a notorious financial innovation adopted by a large number of local governments. A large increase in the debt burden of a local government results in a significant reduction in its investments, but leaves expenses and taxes mostly unchanged. This effect is dampened for local governments that are more politically contested. An increase in public debt reduces the likelihood of re-election for incumbent mayor and its political party. Overall, these findings support the existence of a public debt overhang effect,  which binds differently depending on the political context as contested mayors strive to maintain investments.

with Claire Celerier and Gordon Liao

This paper investigates the effects of the issuance of retail products with non-linear payoffs on option prices. For a given underlying asset, when the outstanding volume of products embedding a short-put position increases, implied volatility at the corresponding strike decreases. A similar pattern exists for the dividend term structure: larger outstanding volumes of retail structured products are associated with a flattened dividend term structured. A simple trading strategy exploiting this pattern leads to a Sharpe ratio above 2. These results are consistent with the existence of segmented markets and speak to the equilibrium effects of the retail demand for innovative securities.

( 11 )

( 12 )

with Claire Celerier and Alexey Vasilenko

This paper documents the existence of a significant wage finance premium in academia, and investigates its underlying mechanism. By exploiting an extensive dataset covering wages, publications and socio-demographics for 60,000 public-university faculty from all fields, we first document a wage premium that amounts to close to 50% for finance professors. We then show that finance-faculty wages are significantly more sensitive to students' future compensation than in other fields, which suggests that the academic premium results from a spillover from the industry. Non-exclusive channels for such spillover supported by the data are an imbalance between student demand for finance majors and the supply of finance PhD graduates, more donations originating from this industry, and the importance of student wages in business school rankings, all resulting in higher university revenues per finance faculty. By contrast to the industry, we find no evidence of higher returns to talent compared to the other fields. 

Work in Progress

  • Security Design, Behavioral Biases and Portfolio Choice: Experimental Evidence, with Claire Celerier (U of Toronto - Rotman) and Yueran Ma (U of Chicago - Booth) 

  • The Effects of Coal Divestments, with Dan Green (HBS)

  • The Political Color of Capital, with Emil Siriwardane (HBS) and Johnny Tang (HBS)

  • FinTech and Labor Markets, with Jose Murillo (Harvard) and Dolly Yu (HBS)


HBS Case Studies

1. "Case in Point: Home Equity Investment", with Dan Green, Sid Beaumaster and Dolly Yu, Harvard Business School Case, October 2020. 

2. "Seso Global: Building a Blockchain-enabled Property Marketplace in Nigeria." with Dolly Yu, Harvard Business School Case 220-055, February 2020. 

3.  "OpenInvest: Socio-responsible Robo-advisor", with Shawn Cole and Nicole Tempest Keller. Harvard Business School Case 218-064, February 2018. (Revised August 2018.)

4. "Deutsche Bank: Structured Retail Products." with Jerome Lenhardt, Harvard Business School Case 217-037, November 2016. (Revised March 2018.)

5. "Exotic Interest Rate Swaps: Snowballs in Portugal.", with Patrick Augustin and Philippe Rich, Harvard Business School Case 217-050, January 2017.

6. "Tableau." Harvard Business School Case 216-045, March 2016. (Revised March 2018.)



  • Real Property - MBA Elective Curriculum: 2018-YTD   (Latest teaching evaluations: 6.5/7.0)

  • Finance II - MBA Required Curriculum: 2014-2017 (Latest teaching evaluations: 7.0/7.0 and 6.9/7.0)

  • Executive Education: Real Estate Management, Family Office Program, Custom Program - Ongoing

  • Summer Venture in Management Program (residential educational program for rising college seniors from minority backgrounds) - Ongoing


Awards & Honors

  • Rising Scholar Award (Winner), Review of Corporate Finance Studies, SFS, 2020

  • Arthur Warga Award for Best Paper in Fixed Income (Winner), SFS Cavalcade Conference, 2015 

  • Ieke van den Burg Prize} for Research on Systemic Risk (Winner), ESRB, joint with C. Celerier, 2015 

  • AQR Top Finance Graduate Award 2014 (Winner), Copenhagen Business School, 2014 

  • Best PhD Thesis in Economics (Winner) - French Economic Association (AFSE), 2015

  • Best PhD Thesis in Finance (Winner) - French Finance Association (AFFI-Eurofidai), 2015 

  • Best PhD Thesis (Winner) - HEC Foundation, 2015 

  • Benjamin Delessert Award on Household Savings (Special Award) - BPCE, 2015 

  • Best PhD Paper in Honor of Professor Stuart I. Greenbaum 2013 (Finalist), WUSL, 2013