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Optimal Executive Compensation vs. Managerial Power: A Review of Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried's "Pay without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation"

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  • Michael S. Weisbach

Abstract

This essay reviews Bebchuk and Fried's "Pay without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation". Bebchuk and Fried criticize the standard view of executive compensation, in which executives negotiate contracts with shareholders that provide incentives that motivate them to maximize the shareholders' welfare. In contrast, Bebchuk and Fried argue that executive compensation is more consistent with executives who control their own boards, and who maximize their own compensation subject to an "outrage constraint". They provide a host of evidence consistent with this alternative viewpoint. The book can be evaluated from both a positive and a normative perspective. From a positive perspective, much of the evidence they present, especially about the camouflage and risk-taking aspects of executive compensation systems, is fairly persuasive. However, from a normative perspective, the book conveys the idea that policy changes can dramatically improve executive compensation systems and consequently overall corporate performance. It is unclear to me how effective in practice are potential reforms designed to achieve such changes likely to be.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12798.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12798

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  1. Hermalin, Benjamin E & Weisbach, Michael S, 1998. "Endogenously Chosen Boards of Directors and Their Monitoring of the CEO," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 96-118, March.
  2. Lucian Arye Bebchuk & Jesse M. Fried, 2003. "Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 71-92, Summer.
  3. 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.
  4. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Michael S. Weisbach, 2006. "A Framework for Assessing Corporate Governance Reform," NBER Working Papers 12050, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Dyck, Alexander & Zingales, Luigi, 2002. "The Corporate Governance Role of the Media," CEPR Discussion Papers 3630, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Lucian A. Bebchuk & Jesse M. Fried, 2005. "Pay Without Performance: Overview of the Issues," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 17(4), pages 8-23.
  7. Vives,Xavier (ed.), 2006. "Corporate Governance," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521032032, November.
  8. 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.
  9. Bebchuk, Lucian A. & Fried, Jesse M., 2003. "Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt81q3136r, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  10. 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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