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According to financial theory, the goal of management is to create value for stockholders, specifically to maximize shareholder wealth ( Jensen, 2001). Despite extensive theorizing and empirical research, considerable debate exists on whether dividend policy plays a role in achieving this goal. Dividend policy refers to the payout policy that a firm follows in determining the size and pattern of distributions to shareholders over time. Firms distribute cash to shareholders through cash dividends, share repurchases, and specially designated dividends. DeAngelo et al. (2004) report that US firms rarely pay specially designated dividends, except in the case of large one-time special dividends, despite the fact that they were at one time as prevalent as regular cash dividends. The early literature on dividend policy offers two very different views about the relationship between cash dividends and firm value. One view, attributed to Miller and Modigliani (1961) and echoed in Black (1976), suggests that dividends are irrelevant for firm value and possibly value-destroying. In his classic paper, Black (p. 5) notes, Managerial Finance Vol. 41 No. 2, 2015 pp. 126-144 © Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0307-4358 DOI 10.1108/MF-03-2014-0077 Received 17 March 2014 Revised 1 September 2014 21 September 2014 Accepted 21 September 2015 The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at: www.emeraldinsight.com/0307-4358.htm 126 MF 41,2 “The harder we look at the dividend picture, the more it seems like a puzzle, with pieces that just don’t fit together.” Another perspective, represented in the classic works of Williams (1938), Lintner (1965), and Gordon (1959), considers dividends as an important determinant of firm value. In the period following these early views, researchers examined the importance of distribution decisions to firm value. As Baker et al. (2002, p. 255) conclude, “Despite a voluminous amount of research, we still do not have all the answers to the dividend puzzle.” Almost a decade later, Baker et al. (2011, p. 305) note, “Empirical evidence on whether dividend policy affects a firm’s value offers contradictory advice to corporate managers.” Nonetheless, substantial advancements have been made in studying payout policy over the past several decades. In studying dividend policy, researchers typically rely on two main approaches. One approach uses statistical analysis of published financial data to test various hypotheses about dividend policy. Chiang et al. (2006) contend that such ex post data can explain surface reality but cannot measure motivation. As Frankfurter and Wood (2003, p. 167) note, “No theory based on the economic paradigm developed thus far completely explains the persistence of corporate payout policy.” The second approach uses survey methodology to obtain primary data about dividend policy from financial managers and others. As Frankfurter et al. (2002, p. 202) state, “[…] one cannot understand the motivation and perception of people by simply analyzing market data.” According to Tufano (2001) and Graham and Harvey (2001), using different empirical approaches can help validate the results of quantitative studies using market-based research. Survey research complements research based on secondary data and provides additional insights into why firms engage in dividend policy decisions. Our main purpose is to provide an introduction to this special issue of Managerial Finance on dividends and dividend policy. We offer an overview and synthesis of some important literature, chronicle changing perspectives and trends, provide stylized facts, offer practical implications, and suggest avenues for future research. We also identify pieces of the dividend puzzle that have received more empirical support than others. Although our main focus is on cash dividends, literature surveys on stock repurchases and specially designated dividends are available in Bierman (2001), Vermaelen (2005), Baker (2009), and Baker et al. (2011) among others. This overview is inevitably incomplete given the massive literature on dividends. Unlike literature surveys that provide detailed examinations of the theories and empirical evidence of individual studies, we take a different approach and offer a broader view. The distinctive contribution of this paper is that we synthesize the major conclusions based on theoretical and empirical findings from relevant books (e.g. Lease et al., 2000; Bierman, 2001; Frankfurter and Wood, 2003; Da Silva et al., 2004; Baker, 2009; Baker et al., 2011) and literature reviews (e.g. Frankfurter and Wood, 2002; Allen and Michaely, 2003; DeAngelo et al., 2008; Al-Malkawi et al., 2010; Farre-Mensa et al., 2014) on dividend policy since 2000. Specifically, we provide a survey of surveys with a focus on new insights for paying cash dividends. Not surprisingly, conclusions drawn from different literature surveys sometimes contradict each other. Our synthesis incorporates results from both statistical analyses and managerial surveys. For our purpose, little need exists to systematically present reviews of individual studies given the availability of numerous in-depth literature surveys on dividend policy. This approach is unusual but appropriate in providing a backdrop from this special issue of Managerial Finance. To avoid misinterpreting or filtering the conclusions provided in these surveys, we often present them in the researchers’ own words. 127 Corporate dividend policy revisited The remainder of the paper has the following organization. The next two sections address the fundamental issue of whether dividend policy affects firm value and hence shareholder wealth by discussing dividend irrelevance and relevance. This is followed by a review of dividend payouts and trends over time. The next two sections examine two basic questions: Why do firms pay dividends? What determines the magnitude of dividend payouts? The remaining sections offer some stylized facts, practical implications, areas of further research, and final observations.