What Do We Know About Executive Compensation at Privately Held Firms?

72 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2007 Last revised: 20 Feb 2013

See all articles by Rebel A. Cole

Rebel A. Cole

Florida Atlantic University

Hamid Mehran


Date Written: February 17, 2013


This study examines the determinants of executive compensation using data from two nationally representative samples of privately held U.S. corporations conducted ten years apart-in 1993 and 2003 — and uses these data to test a number of hypotheses. We find that: (i) the level of executive pay at privately held firms is higher at larger firms and varies widely by industry, consistent with stylized facts about executive pay at public companies; (ii) inflation-adjusted executive pay has fallen at privately held companies, in contrast with the widely documented run-up in executive pay at large public companies; (iii) the pay-size elasticity is much larger for privately held firms than for the publicly traded firms on which previous research has almost exclusively focused; (iv) executive pay is higher at more complex organizations; (v) organizational form affects taxation, which, in turn, affects executive pay, with executives at C-corporations being paid significantly more than executives at S-corporations; (vi) executive pay is inversely related to CEO ownership; (vii) executive pay is inversely related to financial risk; and (viii) executive pay is related to a number of CEO characteristics, including age, education and gender: executive pay is inversely related to CEO age, positively related to educational, and is significantly lower for female executives.

Keywords: CEO, Compensation, Education, Executive, Executive Pay, Gender, Organizational Form, Ownership, SSBF, Taxes

JEL Classification: H24, H25, G32, J33

Suggested Citation

Cole, Rebel A. and Mehran, Hamid, What Do We Know About Executive Compensation at Privately Held Firms? (February 17, 2013). FRB of New York Staff Report No. 314. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1548750 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1548750

Rebel A. Cole (Contact Author)

Florida Atlantic University ( email )

College of Business
777 Glades Road
Boca Raton, FL 33431
United States
1-561-297-4969 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://rebelcole.com

Hamid Mehran

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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