Six Factors that Explain Executive Pay (and its Problems)

11 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2010

See all articles by Stephen F. O'Byrne

Stephen F. O'Byrne

Shareholder Value Advisors, Inc.

S. David Young

INSEAD - Accounting and Control Area


The authors start by showing that six factors - responsibility (i.e., position and company size), industry, pay inflation, business risk, performance and company pay policy - explain over 75% of the variation in the pay of top-five U.S. executives for a sample of 75,000 cases during the years 1997–2008. They also show that the current structure of top-executive pay creates a stronger incentive for revenue growth than for shareholder value growth, and that a 10% increase in shareholder value increases incentive compensation by only 3%. Moreover, their research suggests that the “value incentive” of the average U.S. executive is only one third as strong as the incentive that would be provided by simple “sharing” concepts, such as those provided by plans that give executives a fixed percentage of economic profit or annual grants of a fixed number of shares of stock. The article concludes by reviewing some recent research on incentives and company performance and offering suggestions to help investors identify companies with strong and cost-efficient shareholder value incentives.

Suggested Citation

O'Byrne, Stephen F. and Young, S. David, Six Factors that Explain Executive Pay (and its Problems). Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Vol. 22, Issue 2, pp. 109-117, Spring 2010, Available at SSRN: or

Stephen F. O'Byrne (Contact Author)

Shareholder Value Advisors, Inc. ( email )

1865 Palmer Avenue, Suite 210
Larchmont, NY 10538
United States
914-833-5891 (Phone)
914-833-5892 (Fax)


S. David Young

INSEAD - Accounting and Control Area ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
CEDEP No. 11
F-7705 Fontainebleau Cedex, 77305
(33) (0)1 64 69 43 45 (Phone)
(33) (0)1 60 74 55 00/01 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics