Tag: Incentives

The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation

Frances M. Tice is Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This post is based on an article authored by Ms. Tice.

In the paper, The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation on Investment Efficiency and Firm Performance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I examine the effect of explicit relative performance evaluation (RPE) on managers’ investment decisions and firm performance. Principal-agent theory suggests that firms can motivate managers to act in shareholders’ interest by linking their compensation to firm performance. However, firm performance is often affected by exogenous factors, and as a result, performance-based compensation may expose managers to common risk that they cannot directly control. In such cases, RPE enables the principal to compensate managers on their effort and events under their control by removing the effect of common shocks from measured performance, thus improving risk sharing and incentive alignment. However, RPE use as implemented in practice may not be effective in addressing agency costs because of potential peer group issues, such as availability of firms with common risk or a self-serving bias in peer selection. In addition, prior research also suggests that a large gap in ability between the RPE firm and peers (“superstar effect”) may actually reduce managers’ effort because the probability of winning is low. Therefore, the question of whether explicit RPE use in executive compensation does indeed reduce agency costs remains unanswered in the empirical literature.


Is Institutional Investor Stewardship Still Elusive?

Simon C.Y. Wong is an adjunct professor of law at the Northwestern University School of Law, and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This post is based on an article that recently appeared in the Butterworths Journal of International Banking and Financial Law.


The idea that institutional investors should behave as active, long-term oriented “stewards” has caught on globally. Five years after the launch of the landmark UK Stewardship Code, counterparts can be found on four continents (see Figure 1).

When the UK code was promulgated, I argued that institutional investor stewardship was an elusive quest due to, inter alia: ––

  • Inappropriate performance metrics and financial arrangements that promote trading and a short-term focus;
  • ––Excessive portfolio diversification that makes monitoring of investee companies challenging; ––
  • Lengthening chain of ownership that weakens an ownership mindset; ––
  • Passive/index funds that pay scant attention to corporate governance; and ––
  • Pervasive conflicts of interest among asset managers.

The fifth anniversary of the UK code provides an opportune moment to examine the notable achievements and continuing challenges in the drive to encourage institutional investors to be informed and engaged owners.


Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing

Daniel P. Chung is of counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn publication authored by Mr. Chung, F. Joseph Warin, Charles J. Stevens, and Debra Wong Yang.

On September 9, 2015, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) issued a new policy memorandum, signed by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, regarding the prosecution of individuals in corporate fraud cases—”Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing” (“the Yates Memorandum”).

The Yates Memorandum has been heralded as a sign of a new resolve at DOJ, and follows a series of public statements made by DOJ officials indicating that they intend to adopt a more severe posture towards “flesh-and-blood” corporate criminals, not just corporate entities. Furthermore, the Yates Memorandum formalizes six guidelines that are intended “to strengthen [DOJ’s] pursuit of corporate wrongdoing.”

Though much of the Yates Memorandum is not entirely novel, corporations and their executives should take close note of DOJ’s increasing and public focus on individual prosecutions. Additionally, both corporations and DOJ should take note of how the Yates Memorandum may carry a number of consequences—intended and unintended—with respect to cooperation with DOJ investigations.


CEO and Executive Compensation Practices: 2015 Edition

Matteo Tonello is Managing Director at The Conference Board, Inc. This post relates to CEO and Executive Compensation Practices: 2015 Edition, an annual benchmarking report authored by Dr. Tonello with James Reda of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. For details regarding how to obtain a copy of the report, contact matteo.tonello@conference-board.org.

The Conference Board, in collaboration with Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., recently released the Key Findings from CEO and Executive Compensation Practices: 2015 Edition, which documents trends and developments on senior management compensation at companies issuing equity securities registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and, as of May 2015, included in the Russell 3000 Index.

The report has been designed to reflect the changing landscape of executive compensation and its disclosure. In addition to benchmarks on individual elements of compensation packages and the evolving features of short-term and long-term incentive plans (STIs and LTIs), the report provides details on shareholder advisory votes on executive compensation (say-on-pay) and outlines the major practices on board oversight of compensation design.


Corporate Risk-Taking and Public Duty

Steven L. Schwarcz is the Stanley A. Star Professor of Law & Business at Duke University School of Law. This post is based on a draft article by Professor Schwarcz, available here.

Although corporate risk-taking is economically necessary and even desirable, it can also be harmful. There is widespread agreement that excessive corporate risk-taking was one of the primary causes of the systemic collapse that caused the 2008-09 financial crisis. To avoid another devastating collapse, most financial regulation since the crisis is directed at reducing excessive corporate risk-taking by systemically important firms. Often that regulation focuses on aligning managerial and investor interests, on the assumption that investors generally would oppose excessively risky business ventures.

My article, Misalignment: Corporate Risk-Taking and Public Duty, argues that assumption is flawed. What constitutes “excessive” risk-taking depends on the observer; risk-taking is excessive from a given observer’s standpoint if, on balance, it is expected to harm that observer. As a result, the law inadvertently allows systemically important firms to engage in risk-taking ventures that are expected to benefit the firm and its investors but, because much of the systemic harm from the firm’s failure would be externalized onto other market participants as well as onto ordinary citizens impacted by an economic collapse, harm the public.


2016 ISS Policy Survey

Linda Pappas and Maggie Choi are Consultants at Pay Governance LLC. This post is based on a Pay Governance memorandum.

In August 4, 2015, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) released its annual policy survey for the 2016 proxy voting season. The survey encompasses its global proxy voting policies across all potential topic areas. The responses elicited from the survey are used to assist ISS in developing changes to its proxy voting policy guidelines, and will be open for one month (until September 4, 2015). Upon closing of the survey, there will be an open comment period prior to the finalization of the updated ISS proxy voting policies which are targeted for release in November 2015.

The key survey areas specifically related to compensation for 2016 include use of adjusted or non-GAAP metrics in incentive compensation programs and equity compensation vehicles for non-executive directors. This post focuses on these two topic areas, and touches on other noteworthy U.S. and global policy areas.


Proposed Regulations May Affect Fee Waivers

David I. Shapiro is a is a tax partner resident at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Shapiro, Michelle GoldBrian Kniesly, and Christopher Roman.

The Department of the Treasury and the IRS have issued proposed regulations regarding “disguised payments for services” under Section 707(a)(2)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code. The proposed regulations appear to be primarily focused on management fee waivers (and similar arrangements), but could also affect certain aspects of the tax treatment of carried interest.

Management fee waivers are a planning technique seen mostly in the private equity fund industry, where a fund manager waives a share of its management fee in exchange for a share of future profits (that is separate from any carried interest otherwise payable), often in amounts that are intended to replicate the foregone management fees. Management fee waivers are generally intended to achieve certain benefits, including deferring the receipt of taxable income by the fund sponsor, allowing the fund sponsor to meet its capital commitment to a fund on a non-cash basis, and providing for potentially more favorable tax rates applicable to individuals (i.e., if the underlying share of profits is comprised of long-term capital gain). Management fee waivers have been utilized in different forms, over many years, including arrangements which effectively amount to a package of a higher carried interest and a lower management fee, as well as arrangements which are structured as annual elective waivers. Different arrangements vary in the manner and priority in which waived amounts are paid out of future partnership profit.


Appraisal Arbitrage—Is There a Delaware Advantage?

Gaurav Jetley is a Managing Principal and Xinyu Ji is a Vice President at Analysis Group, Inc. This post is based on a recent article authored by Mr. Jetley and Mr. Ji. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Market observers have devoted a fair amount of attention to possible reasons underlying the recent increase in appraisal rights actions filed in the Delaware Chancery Court. A number of commentators have connected such an increase to recent rulings reaffirming appraisal rights of shares bought by appraisal arbitrageurs after the record date of the relevant transactions. Other reasons posited for the current increase in appraisal activity include the relatively high interest rate on the appraisal award and a belief that the Delaware Chancery Court may feel more comfortable finding fair values in excess of, rather than below, the transaction price.

In our paper Appraisal Arbitrage—Is There a Delaware Advantage?, we examine the extent to which economic incentives may have improved for appraisal arbitrageurs in recent years, which may help explain the increase in appraisal activity. We investigate three specific issues.


Angels and Venture Capitalists: A Match Made in Heaven?

Thomas Hellmann is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Oxford University. This post is based on two recent articles authored by Mr. Hellmann, Veikko Thiel, Assistant Professor of Business Economics at Queen’s University; Paul Schure, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Victoria; and Dan Vo, Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Carrots & Sticks: How VCs Induce Entrepreneurial Teams to Sell Startups, by Jesse Fried and Brian Broughman (discussed on the Forum here) and Delaware Law as Lingua Franca: Evidence from VC-Backed Startups, by Jesse FriedBrian Broughman, and Darian Ibrahim (discussed on the Forum here).

Are angel investors and venture capitalists friends or foes? Are they synergistic partners in the process of funding entrepreneurial value creation? Or are they distinct funding mechanisms where entrepreneurs have to decide which camp they want to be part of? In a series of two recent papers (Friends or Foes? The Interrelationship between Angel and Venture Capital Markets; and Angels and Venture Capitalists: Substitutes or Complements?), we examine these questions both from a theoretical [1] and an empirical [2] perspective.


Making Executive Compensation More Accountable

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar 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.

When it comes to compensation, Americans believe you should earn your money. They also believe, just as strongly, that you should not keep what you did not earn. It’s fundamental to our values. However, when companies have to restate their financial statements because they violated applicable reporting requirements, their executives may not be required to reimburse any incentive-based compensation that was erroneously paid. In other words, they get to keep what they never should have received in the first place.

And, quite often, we are talking about very large amounts. In today’s corporate world, many executives are earning eye-catching sums. Much of the increase in executive compensation is commonly attributed to the impact of incentive-based compensation, including equity and other performance-based compensation plans.

Incentive-based compensation plans are intended to align the interests of company managers and shareholders. However, when a company is required to issue a restatement, and when its executives have been paid compensation based on inflated financial results, this alignment disappears. In such cases, it is only fair that these erroneously awarded payments be recovered.


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