Tag: Executive performance


SEC Proposes “Pay Versus Performance” Rule

Edmond T. FitzGerald is partner and head of the Executive Compensation Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. This post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum; the complete publication, including Appendix, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about CEO pay includes Paying for Long-Term Performance (discussed on the Forum here) and the book Pay without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation, both by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried.

On April 29, 2015, a divided Securities and Exchange Commission proposed requiring U.S. public companies to disclose the relationship between executive compensation and the company’s financial performance. [1] The proposed “pay versus performance” rule, one of the last Dodd-Frank Act rulemaking responsibilities for the SEC, mandates that a company provide, in any proxy or information statement:

  • A new table, covering up to five years, that shows:
    • compensation “actually paid” to the CEO, and total compensation paid to the CEO as reported in the Summary Compensation Table;
    • average compensation “actually paid” to other named executive officers, and average compensation paid to such officers as reported in the Summary Compensation Table; and
    • cumulative total shareholder return (TSR) of the company and its peer group; and
  • Disclosure of the relationship between:
    • executive compensation “actually paid” and company TSR; and
    • company TSR and peer group TSR.

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Proposed Rule on Pay Versus Performance

Kara M. Stein is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Stein’s recent public statement, available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Stein and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about CEO pay includes Paying for Long-Term Performance (discussed on the Forum here) and the book Pay without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation, both by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried.

Executive compensation and its relationship to the performance of a company has been an important issue since the first proxy rules were promulgated by the Commission nearly 80 years ago. The first tabular disclosure of executive compensation appeared in 1943, and over the years, the Commission has continued to update and overhaul the presentation and content of compensation disclosures.

Today [April 29, 2015], the Commission, as directed by Congress, takes another important step in modernizing our executive compensation rules by proposing amendments on pay versus performance. [1] Section 953(a) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed the Commission to adopt rules requiring public companies to disclose in their proxy materials the relationship between executive compensation actually paid, and the financial performance of the company.

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SEC Releases Proposed Rules on Dodd-Frank Pay vs. Performance Disclosure Rule

Michael J. Segal is partner in the Executive Compensation and Benefits Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Segal, Andrea K. Wahlquist, and David E. Kahan.

On April 29, 2015, the SEC released proposed rules under Section 953(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act, regarding required proxy and other information statement disclosure of the relationship between executive compensation actually paid by a company, and the company’s financial performance. The proposed rules are subject to public comments for 60 days following their publication in the Federal Register. The new requirements could become effective as early as the 2016 proxy season.

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The Benefits of Limits on Executive Pay

The following post comes to us from Peter Cebon of the University of Melbourne and Benjamin Hermalin, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about CEO pay includes: The CEO Pay Slice by Lucian Bebchuk, Martijn Cremers, and Urs Peyer (discussed on the Forum here); Paying for Long-Term Performance by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here); and Lucky CEOs and Lucky Directors by Lucian Bebchuk, Yaniv Grinstein and Urs Peyer (discussed on the Forum here).

Our paper, When Less Is More: The Benefits of Limits on Executive Pay, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, addresses the question of whether limits on executive compensation harm or benefit shareholders. In particular, our model shows that if regulation limits executive compensation, this can make it possible for the board to give the CEO incentives that are both more effective and less costly, and for the two parties to create a relationship that is more collaborative. Among the implications—some of which we are exploring in a companion paper in progress—is this collaborative relationship makes it more attractive for the CEO to pursue long-run strategies (e.g., organic growth) that are more profitable than the short-run strategies (e.g., mergers and acquisitions) they would have pursued if firms had to rely on stock-based compensation for their executives.

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When Executives Fail: Managing Performance on the CEO’s Team

The following post comes to us from Mark Nadler, Principal and co-founder of Nadler Advisory Services, and is based on a Nadler white paper.

Picture, if you will, the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company slumped over a conference table, holding his head in his hands, anguishing over whether the time had come to pull the plug on one of his most senior executives. “Tell me,” he asks in despair, “is it this hard for everybody?”

Yes, it is.

Of all the complex, sensitive, and stressful issues that confront CEOs, none consumes as much time, generates as much angst, or extracts such a high personal toll as dealing with executive team members who are just not working out. Billion-dollar acquisitions, huge strategic shifts, even decisions to eliminate thousands of jobs—all pale in comparison with the anxiety most CEOs experience when it comes to deciding the fate of their direct reports.

To be sure, there are exceptions. Every once in a while, an executive fouls up so dramatically or is so woefully incompetent that the CEO’s course of action is clear. However, that’s rarely the case. More typically, these situations slowly escalate. Early warning signs are either dismissed or overlooked, and by the time the problem starts reaching crisis proportions, the CEO has become deeply invested in making things work. He or she procrastinates, grasping at one flawed excuse after another. Meanwhile, the cost of inaction mounts daily, exacted in poor leadership and lost opportunities.

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When Are Powerful CEOs Beneficial?

The following post comes to us from Minwen Li and Yao Lu, both of the Department of Finance at Tsinghua University, and Gordon Phillips, Professor of Finance at the University of Southern California.

In our paper, CEOs and the Product Market: When Are Powerful CEOs Beneficial?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we explore what the central factors are that influence when and how powerful CEOs may add value and how the benefits and costs of CEO power vary with industry conditions. In an ideal world, shareholders would grant an optimal level of power, weighing various costs and benefits specific to the firm’s characteristics and the business conditions in which it operates. We hypothesize that the optimal amount of power changes based on product market conditions.

Most recent research has shown that CEO power is negatively associated with firm value and is associated with negative outcomes for the firm. Articles have suggested that powerful CEOs may be bad news for shareholders (e.g., Bebchuk, Cremers, and Peyer 2011; Landier, Sauvagnat, Sraer, and Thesmar 2013). Morse, Nanda, and Seru (2011) provide evidence that powerful CEOs may have more favorable incentive contracts. Khanna, Kim, and Lu (forthcoming) show that CEO power arising from personal decisions can increase the likelihood of fraud within corporations.

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Misalignment Between Corporate Economic Performance, Shareholder Return And Executive Compensation

The following post comes to us from Jon Lukomnik of the IRRC Institute and is based on the summary of a report commissioned by the IRRC Institute and authored by Mark Van Clieaf and Karel Leeflang of Organizational Capital Partners and Stephen O’Byrne of Shareholder Value Advisors; the full report is available here.

Investors, directors and corporate executive management share common interests when it comes to company performance and economic value creation.

Yet, whilst this commonality is laudable, a review of performance measurement and long-term incentive plan design for USA public companies identifies that current practice is less than clear in measuring and aligning these interests in a manner that is robust and meaningful.

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Performance Terms in CEO Compensation Contracts

The following post comes to us from David De Angelis of the Finance Area at Rice University and Yaniv Grinstein of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

CEO compensation in U.S. public firms has attracted a great deal of empirical work. Yet our understanding of the contractual terms that govern CEO compensation and especially how the compensation committee ties CEO compensation to performance is still incomplete. The main reason is that CEO compensation contracts are, in general, not observable. For the most part, firms disclose only the realized amounts that their CEOs receive at the end of any given year. The terms by which the board determines these amounts are not fully disclosed.

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Jamie Dimon’s Pay Raise Sends Mixed Signals on Culture and Accountability

Ben W. Heineman, Jr. is a former GE senior vice president for law and public affairs and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s schools of law and government. This post is based on an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review online, which is available here.

The JP Morgan Chase board of directors has vexed the world with its terse announcement in a recent 8-K filing that CEO Jamie Dimon would receive a big pay raise—$20 million in total pay for 2013, up from $11.5 million for 2012, a 74 percent increase.

Not surprisingly, the news sparked strong reactions, from indignant critique to justification and support. Dimon’s raise obviously has special resonance because JP Morgan’s legal woes were one of the top business stories last year as it agreed to $20 billion in payments to settle a variety of cases involving the bank’s conduct since 2005 when Dimon became JPM CEO. But the ultimate question that gets fuzzed-over in the filing and response is one of culture and accountability—whether a long-serving CEO is accountable for a corporate culture that has spawned major regulatory inquiries and settlements across a broad range of legal issues, even though the firm has otherwise performed well commercially.

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Indexing Executive Compensation Contracts

The following post comes to us from Ingolf Dittmann, Professor of Finance at Erasmus University Rotterdam; Ernst Maug, Professor of Finance at the University of Mannheim; and Oliver Spalt of the Department of Finance at Tilburg University.

Standard principal-agent theory prescribes that managers should not be compensated on exogenous risks, such as general market movements. Rather, firms should index pay and use contracts that filter exogenous risks (e.g., Holmstrom 1979, 1982; Diamond and Verrecchia 1982). This prescription is intuitive and agrees with common sense: CEOs should receive exceptional pay only for exceptional performance, and “rational” compensation practice should not permit CEOs to obtain windfall profits in rising stock markets. However, observed compensation contracts are typically not indexed. Specifically, stock options almost never tie the strike price of the option to an index that reflects market performance or the performance of peers. Commentators often cite this glaring difference between theory and practice as evidence for the inefficiency of executive compensation practice and, more generally, as evidence for major deficiencies of corporate governance in U.S. firms (e.g., Rappaport and Nodine 1999; Bertrand and Mullainathan 2001; Bebchuk and Fried 2004). This paper therefore contributes to the discussion about which compensation practices reveal deficiencies in the pay-setting process.

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