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A Calibratable Model of Optimal CEO Incentives in Market Equilibrium

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  • Alex Edmans
  • Xavier Gabaix
  • Augustin Landier

Abstract

This paper presents a unified framework for understanding the determinants of both CEO incentives and total pay levels in competitive market equilibrium. It embeds a modified principal-agent problem into a talent assignment model to endogenize both elements of compensation. The model's closed form solutions yield testable predictions for how incentives should vary across firms under optimal contracting. In particular, our calibrations show that the negative relationship between the CEO's effective equity stake and firm size is quantitatively consistent with efficiency and need not reflect rent extraction. Our model and data both also imply that the dollar change in wealth for a percentage change in firm value, scaled by annual pay, is independent of firm size. This may render it an attractive incentive measure as it is comparable between firms and over time. The theory also predicts a positive relationship between pay volatility and firm volatility, and that risk and effort affect total pay along the cross-section but not in the aggregate. Finally, we demonstrate that incentive compensation is effective at solving large agency problems, such as selecting corporate strategy, but smaller issues such as perk consumption are best addressed through direct monitoring.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Edmans & Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2007. "A Calibratable Model of Optimal CEO Incentives in Market Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 13372, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13372 Note: CF EFG
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    Cited by:

    1. Dalida Kadyrzhanova & Antonio Falato, 2008. "Optimal CEO Incentives and Industry Dynamics," 2008 Meeting Papers 880, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Bloom, Nicholas & Van Reenen, John, 2011. "Human Resource Management and Productivity," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    3. Carola Frydman & Raven E. Saks, 2010. "Executive Compensation: A New View from a Long-Term Perspective, 1936--2005," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(5), pages 2099-2138.
    4. Giannetti, Mariassunta, 2011. "Serial CEO incentives and the structure of managerial contracts," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 633-662, October.
    5. Lustig, Hanno & Syverson, Chad & Van Nieuwerburgh, Stijn, 2011. "Technological change and the growing inequality in managerial compensation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(3), pages 601-627, March.
    6. Ingolf Dittmann & Ko-Chia Yu, 2009. "How Important Are Risk-Taking Incentives in Executive Compensation?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-076/2, Tinbergen Institute.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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