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CEO compensation and corporate risk: Evidence from a natural experiment

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  • Gormley, Todd A.
  • Matsa, David A.
  • Milbourn, Todd

Abstract

This paper examines the two-way relationship between managerial compensation and corporate risk by exploiting an unanticipated change in firms' business risks. The natural experiment provides an opportunity to examine two classic questions related to incentives and risk—how boards adjust incentives in response to firms' risk and how these incentives affect managers' risk-taking. We find that, after left-tail risk increases, boards reduce managers' exposure to stock price movements and that less convexity from options-based pay leads to greater risk-reducing activities. Specifically, managers with less convex payoffs tend to cut leverage and R&D, stockpile cash, and engage in more diversifying acquisitions.

Suggested Citation

  • Gormley, Todd A. & Matsa, David A. & Milbourn, Todd, 2013. "CEO compensation and corporate risk: Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 79-101.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jaecon:v:56:y:2013:i:2:p:79-101
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jacceco.2013.08.001
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    Cited by:

    1. Francis, Bill B. & Hasan, Iftekhar & Hunter, Delroy M. & Zhu, Yun, 2017. "Do managerial risk-taking incentives influence firms' exchange rate exposure?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 154-169.
    2. Alexander Brüggen & Jens Zehnder, 2014. "SG&A cost stickiness and equity-based executive compensation: does empire building matter?," Mathematical Methods of Operations Research, Springer;Gesellschaft für Operations Research (GOR);Nederlands Genootschap voor Besliskunde (NGB), vol. 25(3), pages 169-192, December.
    3. Jie Chen & Woon Sau Leung & Wei Song & Davide Avino, 2018. "Does CDS trading affect risk-taking incentives in managerial compensation?," Working Papers 2018-19, Swansea University, School of Management.
    4. Chaigneau, Pierre & Edmans, Alex & Gottlieb, Daniel, 2014. "The Value of Informativeness for Contracting," CEPR Discussion Papers 10180, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Yang, Tina & Zhao, Shan, 2014. "CEO duality and firm performance: Evidence from an exogenous shock to the competitive environment," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 534-552.
    6. Kamiya, Shinichi & Kang, Jun-Koo & Kim, Jungmin & Milidonis, Andreas & Stulz, Rene M., 2018. "What Is the Impact of Successful Cyberattacks on Target Firms?," Working Paper Series 2018-04, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
    7. Ivo Schedlinsky & Friedrich Sommer & Arnt Wöhrmann, 2016. "Risk-taking in tournaments: an experimental analysis," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 86(8), pages 837-866, November.
    8. Ellul, Andrew & Wang, Cong & Zhang, Kuo, 2016. "Labor Unemployment Risk and CEO Incentive Compensation," CEPR Discussion Papers 11634, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Appel, Ian R. & Gormley, Todd A. & Keim, Donald B., 2016. "Passive investors, not passive owners," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 111-141.
    10. Balafas, Nikolaos & Florackis, Chris, 2014. "CEO compensation and future shareholder returns: Evidence from the London Stock Exchange," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 97-115.
    11. Gormley, Todd A. & Matsa, David A., 2016. "Playing it safe? Managerial preferences, risk, and agency conflicts," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(3), pages 431-455.
    12. repec:kap:jbuset:v:145:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2899-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Colonnello, Stefano, 2016. "Executive Compensation, Macroeconomic Conditions, and Cash Flow Cyclicality," IWH Discussion Papers 6/2016, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    14. Matousek, Roman & Tzeremes, Nickolaos G., 2016. "CEO compensation and bank efficiency: An application of conditional nonparametric frontiers," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 251(1), pages 264-273.
    15. Peter Cziraki & Moqi Xu, 2014. "Ceo Job Security And Risk-Taking," FMG Discussion Papers dp729, Financial Markets Group.
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    19. Jennifer Gippel & Tom Smith & Yushu Zhu, 2015. "Endogeneity in Accounting and Finance Research: Natural Experiments as a State-of-the-Art Solution," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 51(2), pages 143-168, June.
    20. Simona Catuogno & Sara Saggese & Fabrizia Sarto & Riccardo Viganò, 2016. "Shedding light on the aim of stock options: a literature review," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 20(2), pages 387-411, June.
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    25. Ju, Nengjiu & Leland, Hayne & Senbet, Lemma W., 2014. "Options, option repricing in managerial compensation: Their effects on corporate investment risk," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 628-643.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Legal liability; Regulatory risk; Tail risk; Stock options; Compensation; Managerial incentives;

    JEL classification:

    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics

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