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A Simple Explanation of the Relative Performance Evaluation Puzzle

  • Marco Celentani

    (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

  • Rosa Loveira

    (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

We study a simple moral hazard model in which two risk-neutral owners establish incentives for their risk-averse managers to exert effort. Because the probability distributions over output realizations depend on a common aggregate shock, optimal contracts make the compensation of each manager contingent on own performance but also on a performance benchmark--the performance of the other firm. If the marginal return of effort depends on the aggregate state, optimal contracts are not monotonically decreasing in the performance benchmark. This provides a simple explanation of the Relative Performance Evaluation (RPE) Puzzle--the documented lack of a negative relationship between CEO compensation and comparative performance measures, such as industry or market performance. Our simple model can also explain one-sided RPE--the documented tendency to insulate a CEO's rewards from bad luck, but not from good luck. We clarify that our results are robust in several dimensions and we discuss other applications of our findings. (Copyright: Elsevier)

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.red.2006.04.001
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Article provided by Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics in its journal Review of Economic Dynamics.

Volume (Year): 9 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 525-540

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Handle: RePEc:red:issued:05-109
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  1. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 630-49, November.
  2. Bengt Holmstrom & I. Ricard & Joan Costa, 1984. "Managerial Incentives and Capital Management," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 729, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Garvey, Gerald T. & Milbourn, Todd T., 2006. "Asymmetric benchmarking in compensation: Executives are rewarded for good luck but not penalized for bad," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 197-225, October.
  4. Gerald Garvey & Todd Milbourn, 2003. "Incentive Compensation When Executives Can Hedge the Market: Evidence of Relative Performance Evaluation in the Cross Section," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(4), pages 1557-1582, 08.
  5. Marco Celentani & Rosa Loveira-Pazó, 2004. "What form of relative performance evaluation?," Economics Working Papers 744, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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