Archive for the ‘Executive Compensation’ Category

Director Engagement on Executive Pay

Posted by Jeremy L. Goldstein, Jeremy L. Goldstein & Associates, LLC, on Friday August 15, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Jeremy L. Goldstein is founder of Jeremy L. Goldstein & Associates, LLC. This post is based on a publication by Mr. Goldstein.

Since the implementation of the mandatory advisory vote on executive compensation, shareholder engagement has become an increasingly important part of the corporate landscape. In light of this development, many companies are struggling to determine whether, when and how corporate directors should engage with shareholders on issues of executive compensation. Set forth below are considerations for companies grappling with these issues.

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Board Structures and Directors’ Duties: A Global Overview

Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and is based on a chapter of Getting The Deal Through—Corporate Governance 2014, an annual guide that examines issues relating to board structures and directors’ duties in 33 jurisdictions worldwide.

Corporate governance remains a hot topic worldwide this year, but for different reasons in different regions. In the United States, this year could be characterised as largely “business as usual”; rather than planning and implementing new post-financial crisis corporate governance reforms, companies have operated under those new (and now, not so new) reforms. We have witnessed the growing and changing influence of large institutional investors, and different attempts by companies to respond to those investors as well as to pressure by activist shareholders. We have also continued to monitor the results of say-on-pay votes and believe that shareholder litigation related to executive compensation continues to warrant particular attention.

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Socially Responsible Firms

Posted by Allen Ferrell, Harvard Law School, on Wednesday August 6, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: Allen Ferrell is Greenfield Professor of Securities Law, Harvard Law School. The following post is based on the paper co-authored by Professor Ferrell, Hao Liang and Professor Luc Renneboog.

The desirability of corporations engaging in “socially responsible” behavior has long been hotly debated among economists, lawyers, and business experts. Two general views on corporate social responsibility (CSR) prevail in the literature. The CSR “value-enhancing view” argues that socially responsible firms, such as firms that promote efforts to help protect the environment, promote social equality, improve community relationships, can and often do adhere to value-maximizing corporate governance practices. Indeed, well-governed firms are more likely to be socially responsible. In short, CSR can be consistent with shareholder wealth maximization as well as achieving broader societal goals. The opposite view on CSR begins with Milton Friedman’s (1970) well-known claim that “the only social responsibility of corporations is to make money”. Extending this view, several researchers argue that CSR is often simply a manifestation of managerial agency problems inside the firm (Benabou and Tirole, 2010; Cheng, Hong, and Shue, 2013; Masulis and Reza, 2014) and hence problematic (“agency view”). That is to say, socially responsible firms tend to suffer from agency problems which enable managers to engage in CSR that benefits themselves at the expense of shareholders (Krueger, 2013). Furthermore, managers engaged in time-consuming CSR activities may lose focus on their core managerial responsibilities (Jensen, 2001). Overall, according to the agency view, CSR is generally not in the interests of shareholders.

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Compensating for Long-Term Value Creation in U.S. Public Corporations

Editor’s Note: Joseph Bachelder is special counsel in the Tax, Employee Benefits & Private Clients practice group at McCarter & English, LLP. The following post is based on an article by Mr. Bachelder, with assistance from Andy Tsang, which first appeared in the New York Law Journal.

Three categories of performers are rewarded for value creation in U.S. public corporations. They are: (1) the executives who manage the corporations; (2) the directors who oversee the performance of these corporations; and (3) the individual asset managers and others who provide investment services to investors who own, directly or indirectly, these corporations.

The following post takes a look at the correlation between the long-term incentive compensation of these three categories of performers and long-term value creation in U.S. public corporations that is attributable to them. In fact, such correlation appears to be limited. In addition, the article will consider a definition of “long-term” value creation, the roles of these three categories of performers in creating “long-term” value and the methods of compensating these different categories of performers in their respective roles in “long-term” value creation.

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Executive Remuneration and the Payout Decision

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday July 11, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Philipp Geiler of the Department of Economics, Finances, and Control at EMLYON Business School and Luc Renneboog, Professor of Finance at Tilburg University.

Corporations rely on dividends, share repurchases, or a combination of both payout methods to return earnings to their shareholders. Over the last decade, the importance of the dominating payout method—dividends—seems to be somewhat eroded at UK firms, with an increasing number of firms combining share repurchases with dividends. What explains the surge in the use of combined share repurchases and dividends in the UK? Is there a link between firm’s payout decision and executive remuneration?

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2014 Proxy Season Review

Editor’s Note: H. Rodgin Cohen is a partner and senior chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP focusing on acquisition, corporate governance, regulatory and securities law matters. The following post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Mr. Cohen, Glen T. Schleyer, Melissa Sawyer, and Janet T. Geldzahler; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

During the 2014 proxy season, governance-related shareholder proposals continued to be common at U.S. public companies, including proposals calling for declassified boards, majority voting in director elections, elimination of supermajority requirements, separation of the roles of the CEO and chair, the right to call special meetings and the right to act by written consent. While the number of these proposals was down from 2012 and 2013 levels, this decline related entirely to fewer proposals being received by large-cap companies, likely due to the diminishing number of large companies that have not already adopted these practices. Smaller companies, at which these practices are less common, have not seen a similar decline and, if anything, are increasingly being targeted with these types of proposals.

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Understanding Corporate Governance Through Learning Models of Managerial Competence

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday July 3, 2014 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Benjamin Hermalin, Professor of Finance at the University of California, Berkeley; and Michael Weisbach, Professor of Finance at Ohio State University.

The central focus of research in corporate governance has historically been on the problems of controlling managers’ actions. Without minimizing the real-world importance of such control problems, in our paper, Understanding Corporate Governance Through Learning Models of Managerial Competence, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we argue that such a focus is incomplete and ignores important factors affecting corporate governance. In particular, it overlooks the crucial element of career concerns: managers care about the inferences that current and future employers draw over time about their abilities from observing their performance.

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Agency Problems of Corporate Philanthropy

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday July 1, 2014 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Ronald Masulis, Professor of Finance at the Australian School of Business, and Syed Reza of the Finance Area at Queensland University of Technology.

While corporate charitable contributions are frequent and often substantial, there is no clear evidence in the literature on whether these expenditures have positive effects on firm revenues or performance or on shareholder wealth. In our paper, Agency Problems of Corporate Philanthropy, which was recently accepted at the Review of Financial Studies, we use contributions of American Fortune 500 firms during 1997-2006 and find in a variety of tests that corporate donations advance CEO interests and suggest that misuses of corporate resources that reduce firm value.

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The Executive Turnover Risk Premium

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday June 12, 2014 at 9:34 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Florian Peters, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Amsterdam and Alexander Wagner, Professor of Finance at the University of Zurich.

In our forthcoming Journal of Finance paper, The Executive Turnover Risk Premium, we make the simple point that forced turnover risk explains an important part of the cross-sectional variation of compensation for the CEOs of public U.S. corporations. The empirical magnitude of the turnover risk premium—about 7% greater subjective compensation for a one percentage point increase in turnover risk—is in line with calibrated theoretical predictions.

To identify the turnover risk premium, we use sources of job risk that are arguably outside the CEO’s control such as changing industry conditions. This strategy relies on the idea that, in practice, firing occurs not only when the CEO reveals low general ability. Rather, a board may fire a CEO when industry conditions change in such a way that his skill set no longer matches the new industry requirements. It is this kind of exogenous risk exposure that should plausibly be compensated in CEO pay.

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Curbing Short-Termism in Corporate America: Focus on Executive Compensation

Posted by Robert C. Pozen, Harvard Business School, on Thursday May 8, 2014 at 9:21 am
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Editor’s Note: Robert Pozen is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The protest against short termism in corporate America is rising. Business and political leaders are decrying the emphasis on quarterly results—which they claim is preventing corporations from making long-term investments needed for sustainable growth.

However, these critics of short termism have a skewed view of the facts and there are logical flaws in their arguments. Moreover, their proposals would dramatically cut back on shareholder rights to hold companies accountable.

The critics of short termism stress how much the average daily share volume has increased over the last few decades. Although this is factually correct, this sharp average increase is caused primarily by a tremendous rise in intraday trading.

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