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Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem

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  • Bebchuk, Lucian Arye
  • Fried, Jesse

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 de-coupled 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, executive loans, retirement benefits, payments to departing executives, 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.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3961.

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Date of creation: Jul 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3961

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Keywords: agency costs; boards; compensation consultants; corporate governance; directors; executive compensation; executive loans; expensing; golden parachutes; M14; managers; principal-agent problem; rent extraction; shareholders; stock options;

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References

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  1. Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1990. "Performance Pay and Top-Management Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(2), pages 225-64, April.
  2. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 323-29, May.
  3. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Fried, Jesse & Walker, David I, 2002. "Managerial Power and Rent Extraction in the Design of Executive Compensation," CEPR Discussion Papers 3558, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Hallock, Kevin F., 1997. "Reciprocally Interlocking Boards of Directors and Executive Compensation," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(03), pages 331-344, September.
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  6. David Yermack, 1996. "Good Timing: CEO Stock Option Awards and Company News Announcements," New York University, Leonard N. Stern School Finance Department Working Paper Seires 96-41, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business-.
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  8. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2001. "Are Ceos Rewarded For Luck? The Ones Without Principals Are," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 901-932, August.
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  15. Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2003. "The Trouble with Stock Options," NBER Working Papers 9784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Eli Ofek & David Yermack, 2000. "Taking Stock: Equity-Based Compensation and the Evolution of Managerial Ownership," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(3), pages 1367-1384, 06.
  17. Richard M. Cyert & Sok-Hyon Kang & Praveen Kumar, 2002. "Corporate Governance, Takeovers, and Top-Management Compensation: Theory and Evidence," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(4), pages 453-469, April.
  18. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
  19. Lucian Arye Bebchuk & John C. Coates IV & Guhan Subramanian, 2002. "The Powerful Antitakeover Force of Staggered Boards: Theory, Evidence and Policy," NBER Working Papers 8974, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Bettis, J. Carr & Bizjak, John M. & Lemmon, Michael L., 2001. "Managerial Ownership, Incentive Contracting, and the Use of Zero-Cost Collars and Equity Swaps by Corporate Insiders," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(03), pages 345-370, September.
  21. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1989. "Management entrenchment : The case of manager-specific investments," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 123-139, November.
  22. Baker, George P & Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1988. " Compensation and Incentives: Practice vs. Theory," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 593-616, July.
  23. Murphy, Kevin J., 1999. "Executive compensation," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2485-2563 Elsevier.
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