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Ceo pay and the rise of relative performance contracts: A question of governance?

Bell, Brian, Pedemonte, Simone and Van Reenen, John ORCID: 0000-0001-9153-2907 (2021) Ceo pay and the rise of relative performance contracts: A question of governance? Journal of the European Economic Association, 19 (5). pp. 2513-2542. ISSN 1542-4766

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Identification Number: 10.1093/jeea/jvab005

Abstract

We exploit the large rise in relative performance awards in the United Kingdom over the last two decades to investigate whether these contracts improve the alignment between CEO pay and firm performance. We first document that corporate governance appears to be stronger when institutional ownership is greater. Then, using hand-collected data from annual reports on explicit contracts, we show that (1) CEO pay still responds more to increases in the firms' stock performance than to decreases, and, importantly, this asymmetry is stronger when corporate governance is weak as measured by low institutional ownership; and (2) "pay for luck"persists as remuneration increases with random positive shocks, even when the CEO has equity awards that explicitly condition on firm performance relative to peer firms in the same sector. A major reason why relative performance contracts do not eliminate pay for luck is that CEOs who fail to meet the terms of their past performance awards are able to obtain more generous new equity rewards in the future in weakly governed firms. We show the mechanism operates both through the quantum of shares and the structure of new contracts. These findings suggest that reforms to the formal structure of CEO pay contracts are unlikely to align incentives in the absence of strong corporate governance.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://academic.oup.com/jeea
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2021.
Divisions: LSE
Economics
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2021 16:00
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2021 12:45
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/112749

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