Does the Market for CEO Talent Explain Controversial CEO Pay Practices?

The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation 2013-09-18


Editor's Note: Martijn Cremers is a Professor of Finance at the University of Notre Dame. Yaniv Grinstein is an Associate Professor of Finance at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

Considerable debate remains among academics and practitioners regarding the economic forces that drive CEO compensation practices in the United States. Some view the market for CEO talent as the main economic force that drives the level and form of CEO compensation (e.g., Rosen, 1992; Gabaix and Landier, 2008). Others argue that these forces have little effect on CEO compensation because of frictions such as managerial entrenchment, asymmetric information, and transaction costs of replacing managers, believing instead that compensation practices are by and large driven by the bargaining power that the CEO has vis-à-vis the board (e.g., Bebchuk and Fried, 2003).

The debate has intensified in recent years due to several controversial compensation practices, a first example of which is the tendency of firms to benchmark CEO compensation to that of other CEOs. While some find benchmarking consistent with competitive compensation (Holmstrom and Kaplan, 2003; Bizjak et al., 2008), others argue it is a way for CEOs to increase their compensation by benchmarking themselves to highly paid CEOs (e.g., Faulkender and Yang, 2010).

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Martijn Cremers, University of Notre Dame, and Yaniv Grinstein, Cornell University,

Date tagged:

09/18/2013, 12:30

Date published:

09/18/2013, 09:11