Narcissism Is a Bad Sign: CEO Signature Size, Investment, and Performance
48 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2012 Last revised: 13 Oct 2020
Date Written: July 2017
Using the size of CEO signatures in SEC filings to measure individual narcissism, we find that it is associated with several negative firm outcomes. We first validate signature size as a measure of narcissism but not overconfidence using two laboratory studies, and also find that our measure is correlated with employee perceptions of CEO narcissism used in prior research. We then use CEO signatures to study the relation between CEO narcissism, the firm’s investment policies, and firm performance. CEO narcissism is associated with overinvestment, particularly in the form of R&D and M&A expenditures, but not capital expenditures. Firms led by narcissistic CEOs experience lower financial productivity in the form of profitability and operating cash flows. Despite this negative performance, narcissistic CEOs enjoy higher absolute and relative compensation. Our results are robust to several alternative specifications, including controlling for a popular options-based overconfidence measure used in prior research.
Keywords: CEO narcissism, signature size, firm investment, firm performance, CEO compensation
JEL Classification: M10, M40, G30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation