Executive pay is a controversial political issue with big implications for firm performance. Although public debate focuses on the level of compensation – or at best its sensitivity to firm performance – this column argues that the key issue is its temporal structure. A well designed payment structure can align CEO incentives with long-term shareholder value. The authors recommend lengthening the vesting period of equity and options.
Alex Edmans, 11 September 2014
Alex Bryson, John Forth, Minghai Zhou, 24 June 2014
Publicly traded companies are the engine behind China’s growth, which raises the question of how CEO compensation works under an interventionist state. This column presents an analysis of executive compensation in China and a comparison to the West. Chinese listed firms have incentive structures similar to those of the US; in this case, effective compensation policies seem to transcend political boundaries.
Ian Gregory-Smith, Steve Thompson, Peter Wright, 24 March 2014
In 2003, the UK adopted a ‘say on pay’ policy, whereby quoted companies’ executive compensation offers have to be put to a shareholder vote. This column presents evidence that this policy has had a relatively modest impact on executive pay. A 10% increase in compensation is associated with an increase in shareholder dissent against the proposal of just 0.2%. However, remuneration committees representing the more highly rewarded CEOs are quite sensitive to dissent, provided it exceeds a critical threshold of about 10%. Shareholders do not appear more anxious about pay since the crisis.
Alex Edmans, 13 July 2010
Recovering US insurance giant AIG recently announced that 80% of their executives’ bonuses will depend on the price of their firm’s bonds and only 20% will depend on the price of their equity. This column argues that such moves will better align CEO fortunes with those of all investors – both shareholders and bondholders – and help prevent future financial crises.
Ian Dew-Becker, Robert J. Gordon, 19 June 2008
Only the top 10% of US earners have seen their incomes grow faster than productivity since 1966. Part of the top-earner income growth is driven by market forces (superstar economics); the only feasible pro-equality policy here is more progressive taxation. For top corporate executives, however, non-market forces (CEO-Board complicity in pay setting) are important, so other policies are warranted. Increased disclosure and improved corporate governance would distribute economic gains more evenly across society and boost firms’ value.