Argumentation in Finance
The course will introduce instruments supporting the identification and analysis of argumentation strategies in the context of several market activities, with a special attention to:
- Start-up pitches to investors and trust-building entrepreneurial argumentation
- Firm valuation and the dialogue between listed companies with financial analysts
- Discussions of firm valuation around hostile takeover bids
- Activist investor campaigns and the interplay of strategy and ESG factors
- Short-seller campaigns and accusations of mismanagement and fraud
- Corporate crises and trust-repairing arguments
The course will examine selected case studies in the above contexts, exemplifying a comprehensive approach to argument analysis, which covers
- the context, the commitments and the incentives of the parties;
- the inferential strength of the arguments in terms of the three dimensions of acceptability, relevance and sufficiency (ARS);
- the rhetorical strategies aimed at securing persuasion in a contextually appropriate fashion.
To map arguments, a theory-based argument visualization software for collaborative analysis (OVA) will be employed.
The case studies, examples and patterns of argumentation will be also examined from a design and production perspective through a start-up pitch simulation.
The course introduces the argumentative dimension of financial interactions. As a discourse aimed at justifying a claim on reasonable grounds, argumentation intervenes in finance to achieve two main goals, which are both considered in this course:
(1) Support sound decision-making. Both corporate managers and investors make use of argumentation to improve the quality of their decisions through informal inferences connecting available information to evaluations and investment decisions. For instance, arguments are made to assess the credibility of signals, the reliability of a prediction, biases in corporate disclosure, to evaluate the prospects of a new venture, a change in business strategy or the rationale of a merger.
(2) Persuade investors and other market actors. The legitimation, diffusion and success of financially-relevant corporate initiatives significantly depend on management’s ability to offer convincing reasons that persuade investors, regulators, analysts and media in relation to the firm’s valuation and to various issues emerging in corporate life.
Students will learn methods for analyzing and evaluating arguments exchanged in the financial arena, applying them to a case study of their choice. Students will also practice the design and delivery of persuasive argumentation in the context of a start-up pitch.
The course is based on theoretical lectures, presentations of extended examples and case studies, argumentation analysis exercises, a group activity focused on argumentative production, and an individual case study of argumentation analysis and evaluation.
Regular attendance is highly recommended as the course systematically builds on previously introduced concepts and employs a good deal of technical concepts and jargon.
30% of the grade will be based on two in-course activities:
Start-up pitch. Group activity centered on designing a pitch-deck for a start-up venture, presenting the pitch and defending it in the face of critical questions It constitutes 10% of the grade and requires the full in-person participation of each member to the activity to obtain the group score.
Intermediate written test. This written intermediate exam is designed to test the students’ grasp of the basic concepts of argumentation analysis and their ability to apply them to financial communication in relation to cases and examples presented in the course. The test is held during class hours and makes up 20% of the grade.
The group activity and the test cannot be repeated or recovered until the following edition of the course.
70% of the grade will be based on a final oral exam consisting of an oral presentation of a case study of argumentative analysis and evaluation, followed by questions on the concepts and analytical tools employed.
All the literature mentioned in the bibliography is required reading. Scientific and press articles that are required reading will be indicated on the iCorsi platform for each topic and made available there.