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The Case For Intervening In Bankers' Pay


  • John Thanassoulis


This paper studies banker remuneration in a competitive market for banker talent. I model, and then calibrate, the default risk of the banks generated by investments and remuneration pressures. Competing banks prefer to pay their banking staff in bonuses and not in wages as risk sharing on the remuneration bill is valuable. But competition for bankers generates a negative externality driving up rival banks' default risk. Optimal financial regulation involves an appropriately structured limit on the proportion of the balance sheet used for bonuses. However stringent bonus caps are value destroying, default risk enhancing and cannot be optimal for regulators who control only a small number of banks. The paper allows an assessment of the intellectual arguments behind widespread calls to regulate the pay of bankers. The paper uses US data to calibrate the analysis and demonstrate the significant contribution of remuneration to default risk.

Suggested Citation

  • John Thanassoulis, 2011. "The Case For Intervening In Bankers' Pay," Economics Series Working Papers 532, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:532

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fabienne Llense, 2010. "French CEOs' Compensations: What is the Cost of a Mandatory Upper Limit?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 56(2), pages 165-191, June.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. You want to restrict bankers' pay
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2011-03-24 19:22:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Thanassoulis, John, 2014. "Bank pay caps, bank risk, and macroprudential regulation," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 139-151.
    2. Hilmer, Michael, 2014. "Too many to fail - How bonus taxation prevents gambling for bailouts," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100552, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Bijlsma, Michiel & Boone, Jan & Zwart, Gijsbert, 2012. "Competition for traders and risk," CEPR Discussion Papers 8816, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Eufinger, Christian & Gill, Andrej, 2013. "Basel III and CEO compensation in banks: Pay structures as a regulatory signal," SAFE Working Paper Series 9, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    5. Besley, Timothy & Ghatak, Maitreesh, 2011. "Taxation and regulation of bonus pay," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58192, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Efing, Matthias & Hau, Harald & Kampkötter, Patrick & Steinbrecher, Johannes, 2015. "Incentive pay and bank risk-taking: Evidence from Austrian, German, and Swiss banks," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(S1), pages 123-140.
    7. Viral Acharya & Marco Pagano & Paolo Volpin, 2016. "Seeking Alpha: Excess Risk Taking and Competition for Managerial Talent," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 29(10), pages 2565-2599.
    8. John Thanassoulis, 2011. "Bankers' Pay Structure And Risk," Economics Series Working Papers 545, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    9. Michael Hilmer, 2014. "Too Many to Fail - How Bonus Taxation Prevents Gambling for Bailouts," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2014-18, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
    10. Gill, Andrej & Heinz, Matthias & Schumacher, Heiner, 2014. "Trust, trustworthiness and selection into the financial industry," CFS Working Paper Series 458, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    11. Hilmer, Michael, 2013. "Fiscal treatment of managerial compensation - a welfare analysis," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79703, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    12. Feess, Eberhard & Wohlschlegel, Ansgar, 2014. "Bank Capital Requirements and Mandatory Deferral of Compensation," MPRA Paper 59456, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    Bonuses; default risk; competition for bankers; financial regulation;

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance

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