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Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem

Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem Abstract This paper provides an overview of the main theoretical elements and empirical underpinnings of a “managerial power” approach to executive compensation. Under this approach, the design of executive compensation is viewed not only as an instrument for addressing the agency problem between managers and shareholders but also as part of the agency problem itself. Boards of publicly traded companies with dispersed ownership, we argue, cannot be expected to bargain at arm's length with managers. As a result, managers wield substantial influence over their own pay arrangements, and they have an interest in reducing the saliency of the amount of their pay and the extent to which that pay is decoupled from managers' performance. We show that the managerial power approach can explain many features of the executive compensation landscape, including ones that many researchers have long viewed as puzzling. Among other things, we discuss option plan design, stealth compensation, executive loans, payments to departing executives, retirement benefits, the use of compensation consultants, and the observed relationship between CEO power and pay. We also explain how managerial influence might lead to substantially inefficient arrangements that produce weak or even perverse incentives. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Economic Perspectives American Economic Association

Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem

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Publisher
American Economic Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 by the American Economic Association
Subject
Symposia
ISSN
0895-3309
DOI
10.1257/089533003769204362
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract This paper provides an overview of the main theoretical elements and empirical underpinnings of a “managerial power” approach to executive compensation. Under this approach, the design of executive compensation is viewed not only as an instrument for addressing the agency problem between managers and shareholders but also as part of the agency problem itself. Boards of publicly traded companies with dispersed ownership, we argue, cannot be expected to bargain at arm's length with managers. As a result, managers wield substantial influence over their own pay arrangements, and they have an interest in reducing the saliency of the amount of their pay and the extent to which that pay is decoupled from managers' performance. We show that the managerial power approach can explain many features of the executive compensation landscape, including ones that many researchers have long viewed as puzzling. Among other things, we discuss option plan design, stealth compensation, executive loans, payments to departing executives, retirement benefits, the use of compensation consultants, and the observed relationship between CEO power and pay. We also explain how managerial influence might lead to substantially inefficient arrangements that produce weak or even perverse incentives.

Journal

Journal of Economic PerspectivesAmerican Economic Association

Published: Sep 1, 2003

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