Posts Tagged ‘Incentives’

Aligning the Interests of Company Executives and Directors with Shareholders

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Monday February 16, 2015 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement; 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.

Today [February 9, 2015], the Commission issued proposed rules on Disclosure of Hedging by Employees, Officers and Directors. These congressionally-mandated rules are designed to reveal whether company executive compensation policies are intended to align the executives’ or directors’ interests with shareholders. As required by Section 955 of the Dodd-Frank Act, these proposed rules attempt to accomplish this by adding new paragraph (i) to Item 407 of Regulation S-K, to require companies to disclose whether they permit employees and directors to hedge their companies’ securities.

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A Smarter Way to Tax Big Banks

Posted by Mark Roe, Harvard Law School, on Monday February 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm
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Editor’s Note: Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law. This post is based on an op-ed by Professor Roe and Michael Tröge that was published today in The Wall Street Journal, which can be found here.

In conjunction with his State of the Union address, President Obama reanimated the idea of taxing big banks’ debts to help stabilize the banking industry and prevent future financial crises. The administration argues that the new tax would discourage banks from taking on too much risk by making it “more costly for the biggest financial firms to finance their activities with excessive borrowing.”

The president’s bank-tax proposal is unlikely to gain traction in the new Congress, just as similar proposals from the administration in 2010 and, last year from the now retired Rep. David Camp (R., Mich.), did not move forward. But even if it became law, it wouldn’t put a sizable dent in bank debt. The reason is simple: The existing tax system strongly encourages debt finance and the proposed new tax will not fundamentally change this.

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ISS 2015 Equity Plan Scorecard FAQs

Posted by Carol Bowie, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., on Monday February 2, 2015 at 9:10 am
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Editor’s Note: Carol Bowie is Head of Americas Research at Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS). This post relates to ISS’ Equity Plan Scorecard for 2015.

General Questions

1. What is the basis for ISS’ new scorecard approach for evaluating equity compensation proposals?

The new policy will allow more nuanced consideration of equity incentive programs, which are critical for motivating and aligning the interests of key employees with shareholders, but which also fuel the lion’s share of executive pay and may be costly without providing superior benefits to shareholders. While most plan proposals pass, they tend to get broader and deeper opposition than, for example, say-on-pay proposals (e.g., only 60% of Russell 3000 equity plan proposals garnered support of 90% or more of votes cast in 2014 proxy season, versus almost 80% of say-on-pay proposals that received that support level). The voting patterns indicate that most investors aren’t fully satisfied with many plans.

…continue reading: ISS 2015 Equity Plan Scorecard FAQs

Tying Incentives of Executives to Long-Term Value Creation

Posted by Joseph E. Bachelder III, McCarter & English, LLP, on Thursday January 22, 2015 at 9:15 am
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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. Research from the Program on Corporate Governance on long-term incentive pay includes Paying for Long-Term Performance by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here).

There is an important difference between the price paid for a business enterprise and the intrinsic value of that enterprise. As Benjamin Graham said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.” Warren Buffett has made himself and many others wealthy by understanding this difference and making investments accordingly.

Part I of this post looks briefly at the intrinsic value versus the market price (sometimes the latter is referred to as market value or market cap) of a publicly traded corporation. Part II looks at current design of long-term incentives awarded to the management of such corporations. These awards tend to be tied to short-term increase in the market price of the corporation’s stock. Part III suggests a way in which long-term incentive awards might be tied more to generators of long-term value of the corporations awarding them.

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Long-term Incentive Grant Practices for Executives

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday January 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Frederic W. Cook & Co., Inc., and is based on a publication by James Park and Lanaye Dworak. The complete publication is available here. An additional publication authored by Mr. Park on the topic of executive compensation was discussed on the Forum here. Research from the Program on Corporate Governance on long-term incentive pay includes Paying for Long-Term Performance by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried, discussed on the Forum here.

The use of long-term incentives, the principal delivery vehicle of executive compensation, has long been sensitive to external influences. A steady source of this influence has come under the guise of legislative reform with mixed results. In 1950, after Congress gave stock options capital gains tax treatment, the use of stock options surged as employers sought to avoid ordinary income tax rates as high as 91%. Some forty years later, Congress added Section 162(m) to the tax code in an attempt to rein in excessive executive pay by limiting the deduction on compensation over $1 million to certain executives. Stock options qualified for a performance-based exemption leading to a spike in stock option grants to CEOs at S&P 500 companies.

Fast forward twenty years and the form and magnitude of long-term incentives continues to be a hot button populist issue. The 2010 Dodd Frank Act introduced U.S. publicly-traded companies to Say on Pay giving shareholders a direct channel to voice their support or opposition for a company’s pay practices. Another legislative addition to the litany of unintended consequences, Say on Pay has magnified the growing number of interested parties, increased the influence of proxy advisory groups such as Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis, heightened sensitivity to federal regulators, and provoked the increased interaction of activist investors.

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Misalignment Between Corporate Economic Performance, Shareholder Return And Executive Compensation

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday December 3, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: 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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Short Selling Pressure, Stock Price Behavior, and Management Forecast Precision

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday December 1, 2014 at 9:03 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yinghua Li of the School of Accountancy at Arizona State University and Liandong Zhang at City University of Hong Kong.

Corporate executives pay considerable attention to secondary market prices and they have strong incentives to maintain or increase the level of their firms’ stock prices. The accounting literature has long recognized that managers can make strategic financial reporting or disclosure choices to influence stock prices. A large body of empirical research examines whether and how corporate disclosures affect stock prices. The literature, however, provides little directional evidence on whether the behavior of stock prices has a causal effect on managerial strategic disclosure decisions. The difficulty in establishing causality stems largely from the endogenous nature of stock prices. In the paper, Short Selling Pressure, Stock Price Behavior, and Management Forecast Precision: Evidence from a Natural Experiment, which is forthcoming in Journal of Accounting Research, we use a randomized experiment, the Regulation SHO pilot program, to examine the causal effect of stock price behavior on managers’ voluntary disclosure choices.

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Shirking CEOs

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday November 18, 2014 at 9:11 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Lee Biggerstaff of the Department of Finance at Miami University of Ohio; David Cicero of the Department of Finance at the University of Alabama; and Andy Puckett of the Department of Finance at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Anytime you hire someone there is always a risk that they will not complete their task with the level of diligence that you had anticipated. Unless you monitor the hired party at all times, which can be extremely inefficient, they always have the temptation to “shirk” their responsibilities and avoid the hard work required to do an excellent job. In our paper, FORE! An Analysis of CEO Shirking, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we provide evidence that some CEOs of public companies in the U.S. succumb to the same temptation to shirk their duties to shareholders by choosing leisure consumption over the hard work required to maximize firm values.

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Relative Total Shareholder Return Performance Awards

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday November 14, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Frederic W. Cook & Co., Inc., and is based on the Executive Summary of a FW Cook publication by David Cole and Jin Fu. The complete publication is available here.

Since 2010, performance-contingent awards have been the most widely used long-term incentive (LTI) grant type among the Top 250 companies [1] and are now in use by 89% of the sample. The prevalence of performance awards and investor preferences have spurred considerable interest in relative total shareholder return (TSR) as a performance metric. Relative TSR measures a company’s shareholder returns [2] against an external comparator group and eliminates the need to set multi-year goals. Use of relative TSR performance awards among the Top 250 companies has increased from 29% in 2010 to 49% in 2014, and relative TSR is now the most prevalent measure used to evaluate company performance for performance awards.

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Strategic News Releases in Equity Vesting Months

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday November 11, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at London Business School; Luis Goncalves-Pinto of the Department of Finance at the National University of Singapore; Yanbo Wang of the Finance Area at INSEAD; and Moqi Xu of the Department of Finance at the London School of Economics.

In our paper, Strategic News Releases in Equity Vesting Months, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we study the link between the equity vesting schedules of CEOs and the timing of corporate news releases. We show that, in months in which the CEO has equity vesting, the firm releases more news. This is an easy way to pump up the short-term stock price, as news attracts attention to the stock. This attention also increases trading volume, which allows the CEO to cash out his equity in a more liquid market. Indeed, we find that these news releases lead to significant increases in the stock price and trading volume in a 16-day window, but the effect dies down over 31 days, consistent with a temporary attention boost. The median CEO cashes out all of his vesting equity within seven days—within the window of price and volume inflation.

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