Essays in Executive Compensation Defended on Thursday, 7 June 2012

This dissertation focuses on how executive compensation is designed and its implications for corporate finance and government regulations. Chapter 2 analyzes several proposals to restrict CEO compensation and calibrates two models of executive compensation that describe how firms would react to different types of restrictions. We find that many restrictions on CEO compensation would have unintended consequences. Restrictions on total realized (ex-post) payouts lead to higher average compensation, higher rewards for mediocre performance, lower risk-taking incentives, and the fact that some CEOs would be better off with a restriction than without it. Restrictions on total ex-ante pay lead to a reduction in the firm's demand for CEO talent and effort. Restrictions on particular pay components, and especially on cash payouts, can be easily circumvented. Chapter 3 examines how executive dividend protection affects corporate payout policy. I find that the dividend protection on executive restricted stock and option grants is associated with higher dividend payouts and lower share repurchases. Using the 2003 tax reform as an exogenous shock in dividend payouts, I provide further evidence that executive dividend protection causes changes in dividend payout policies. Chapter 4 studies a special subset of CEOs who works for a one-dollar annual salary. Rather than being the sacrificial acts they are projected to be, our findings suggest that some adoptions of one-dollar CEO salaries are opportunistic behavior of the wealthier, more overconfident, influential CEOs. Overall, these findings support the literature which claims that CEOs employ camouflage in compensation schemes to reduce the likelihood of public outrage over private benefits.


executive compensation, caps on pay, loss aversion, payout policy, dividend protection, ceo characteristics, camouflage

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