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Strategic Flexibility and the Optimality of Pay for Sector Performance

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  • Radhakrishnan Gopalan
  • Todd Milbourn
  • Fenghua Song

Abstract

While standard contract theory suggests that a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) should be paid relative to a benchmark that removes the effects of sector performance, there is evidence that CEO pay is strongly and positively related to such sector performance. In this article, we offer an explanation. We model a CEO charged with selecting the firm's strategy that determines the firm's exposure to sector performance. To incentivize the CEO to choose optimally, pay contracts will be positively and sometimes asymmetrically related to sector performance. Consistent with our predictions, the empirical analysis indicates that the observed sensitivity of pay to sector performance is almost fully confined to multisegment firms and is greater in firms that offer greater strategic flexibility to alter sector exposure, for more talented CEOs and for CEOs as compared to their subordinate executives. Our evidence is robust to alternate explanations such as CEO entrenchment. The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for Financial Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org., Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Radhakrishnan Gopalan & Todd Milbourn & Fenghua Song, 2010. "Strategic Flexibility and the Optimality of Pay for Sector Performance," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(5), pages 2060-2098.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:rfinst:v:23:y:2010:i:5:p:2060-2098
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/rfs/hhp118
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    Cited by:

    1. DeMarzo, Peter & Kaniel, Ron, 2016. "Relative Pay for Non-Relative Performance: Keeping up with the Joneses with Optimal Contracts," CEPR Discussion Papers 11538, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Dicks, David & Fulghieri, Paolo, 2015. "Ambiguity, Disagreement, and Allocation of Control in Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 10400, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Pierre Chaigneau & Nicolas Sahuguet, "undated". "The structure of CEO pay: pay-for-luck and stock-options," FMG Discussion Papers dp713, Financial Markets Group.
    4. Kim, Kyonghee, 2010. "Blockholder monitoring and the efficiency of pay-performance benchmarking," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(5), pages 748-766, December.
    5. Chaigneau, Pierre & Edmans, Alex & Gottlieb, Daniel, 2014. "The Value of Informativeness for Contracting," CEPR Discussion Papers 10180, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Alex Edmans & Xavier Gabaix, 2016. "Executive Compensation: A Modern Primer," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 1232-1287.
    7. Calcagno, Riccardo & Heider, Florian, 2016. "Liquidity, Information Aggregation, and Market-Based Pay in an Efficient Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 11298, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Campbell, T. Colin & Thompson, Mary Elizabeth, 2015. "Why are CEOs paid for good luck? An empirical comparison of explanations for pay-for-luck asymmetry," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 247-264.
    9. Huang, Sheng, 2014. "Managerial expertise, corporate decisions and firm value: Evidence from corporate refocusing," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 348-375.
    10. Jason Allen & James R. Thompson, 2016. "Capital Structure, Pay Structure and Job Termination," Staff Working Papers 16-12, Bank of Canada.
    11. 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.
    12. Newton, Ashley N., 2015. "Executive compensation, organizational performance, and governance quality in the absence of owners," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 195-222.
    13. Kelly Shue & Richard Townsend, 2016. "Growth through Rigidity: An Explanation for the Rise in CEO Pay," NBER Working Papers 21975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Nanda, Vikram & Onal, Bunyamin, 2016. "Incentive contracting when boards have related industry expertise," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 1-22.
    15. Francis, Bill & Hasan, Iftekhar & John, Kose & Sharma, Zenu, 2013. "Asymmetric benchmarking of pay in firms," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 39-53.

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