Is CEO Pay Really Inefficient? A Survey of New Optimal Contracting Theories

13 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2008 Last revised: 7 Dec 2011

Alex Edmans

London Business School - Institute of Finance and Accounting; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Xavier Gabaix

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); New York University - Stern School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 29, 2011

Abstract

Bebchuk and Fried (2004) argue that executive compensation is set by CEOs themselves rather than boards on behalf of shareholders, since many features of observed pay packages may appear inconsistent with standard optimal contracting theories. However, it may be that simple models do not capture several complexities of real-life settings. This article surveys recent theories that extend traditional frameworks to incorporate these dimensions, and show that the above features can be fully consistent with efficiency. For example, optimal contracting theories can explain the recent rapid increase in pay, the low level of incentives and their negative scaling with firm size, pay-for-luck, the widespread use of options (as opposed to stock), severance pay and debt compensation, and the insensitivity of incentives to risk.

Keywords: Executive compensation, pay-performance sensitivity, rent extraction, optimal contracting

JEL Classification: D2, D3, G34, J3

Suggested Citation

Edmans, Alex and Gabaix, Xavier, Is CEO Pay Really Inefficient? A Survey of New Optimal Contracting Theories (June 29, 2011). Europen Financial Management, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 486-496, June 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1265067

Alex Edmans (Contact Author)

London Business School - Institute of Finance and Accounting ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

Xavier Gabaix

New York University - Stern School of Business ( email )

Stern School of Business
44 West 4th Street, Suite 9-190
New York, NY 10012-1126
United States

HOME PAGE: http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~xgabaix/

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

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