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Are all CEOs above average? An empirical analysis of compensation peer groups and pay design

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  • Bizjak, John
  • Lemmon, Michael
  • Nguyen, Thanh

Abstract

Companies can potentially use compensation peer groups to inflate pay by choosing peers that are larger, choosing a high target pay percentile, or choosing peer firms with high pay. Although peers are largely selected based on characteristics that reflect the labor market for managerial talent, we find that peer groups are constructed in a manner that biases compensation upward, particularly in firms outside the Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500. Pay increases close only about one-third of the gap between the pay of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the peer group, however, suggesting that boards exercise discretion in adjusting compensation. Preliminary evidence suggests that increased disclosure has reduced the biases in peer group choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Bizjak, John & Lemmon, Michael & Nguyen, Thanh, 2011. "Are all CEOs above average? An empirical analysis of compensation peer groups and pay design," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 538-555, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:100:y:2011:i:3:p:538-555
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Albuquerque, Ana M. & De Franco, Gus & Verdi, Rodrigo S., 2013. "Peer choice in CEO compensation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 160-181.
    2. Josh Bivens & Lawrence Mishel, 2013. "The Pay of Corporate Executives and Financial Professionals as Evidence of Rents in Top 1 Percent Incomes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 57-78, Summer.
    3. 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.
    4. Francis, Bill & Hasan, Iftekhar & Mani, Sureshbabu & Ye, Pengfei, 2016. "Relative peer quality and firm performance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(1), pages 196-219.
    5. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier & Julien Sauvagnat, 2014. "CEO Pay and Firm Size: An Update After the Crisis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(574), pages 40-59, February.
    6. Kaustia, Markku & Rantala, Ville, 2015. "Social learning and corporate peer effects," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(3), pages 653-669.
    7. Bereskin, Frederick L. & Cicero, David C., 2013. "CEO compensation contagion: Evidence from an exogenous shock," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 477-493.
    8. Laschever, Ron A., 2013. "Keeping up with CEO Jones: Benchmarking and executive compensation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 78-100.
    9. Kubick, Thomas R. & Lockhart, G. Brandon, 2016. "Do external labor market incentives motivate CEOs to adopt more aggressive corporate tax reporting preferences?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 255-277.
    10. repec:eee:jbrese:v:82:y:2018:i:c:p:68-78 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Robert Rieg, 2015. "Dynamics of value-based management: does shareholder value cause short-termism?," Journal of Management Control: Zeitschrift für Planung und Unternehmenssteuerung, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 193-224, August.
    12. Andres, Christian & Fernau, Erik & Theissen, Erik, 2014. "Should I stay or should I go? Former CEOs as monitors," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 26-47.
    13. Francis, Bill B. & Hasan, Iftekhar & John, Kose & Waisman, Maya, 2016. "Urban Agglomeration and CEO Compensation," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(06), pages 1925-1953, December.
    14. repec:spr:jecfin:v:42:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s12197-016-9383-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Cheng-Feng Cheng, 2012. "Evaluate the Effectiveness of Manager Compensation," International Journal of Business and Economics, College of Business and College of Finance, Feng Chia University, Taichung, Taiwan, vol. 11(1), pages 25-44, June.
    16. Brookman, Jeffrey T. & Thistle, Paul D., 2013. "Managerial compensation: Luck, skill or labor markets?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 252-268.
    17. repec:bla:abacus:v:52:y:2016:i:4:p:772-780 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Werner, Peter & Bolton, Gary & Ockenfels, Axel, 2013. "How managerial wage transparency may reduce shareholder returns Evidence from an experiment," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79766, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    19. Fich, Eliezer M. & Starks, Laura T. & Yore, Adam S., 2014. "CEO deal-making activities and compensation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(3), pages 471-492.
    20. 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.
    21. repec:eee:pacfin:v:43:y:2017:i:c:p:72-83 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. repec:bla:abacus:v:52:y:2016:i:4:p:685-771 is not listed on IDEAS

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