How Powerful CFOs Camouflage and Exploit Equity-Based Incentive Compensation

47 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2013 Last revised: 10 Jan 2017

See all articles by Denton Collins

Denton Collins

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business

Gary Fleischman

Texas Tech University

Stacey Kaden

Truman State University

Juan Manuel Sanchez

University of Texas at San Antonio

Date Written: January 9, 2017

Abstract

While numerous studies have examined the impact that powerful CEOs have on their compensation and overall firm decisions, relatively little is known about how powerful CFOs influence their compensation and important firm financial reporting and operational outcomes. This is somewhat surprising given the critical role CFOs play in the financial reporting process of a firm. Using managerial power theory (Bebchuk and Fried, 2003) and the theory of power and self-focus (Pitesa and Thau, 2013), we predict that powerful CFOs employ a two-part strategy to camouflage excessive incentive compensation above what efficient contracting would dictate. First, powerful CFOs use their power and influence to negotiate shorter incentive pay duration on a non-arm's length basis to maximize the present value of cash flows. Second, when their incentive equity compensation vests, we suggest that CFOs manage earnings to further enhance their personal income. Consistent with our theoretical expectations, we find higher levels of income-increasing accrual-based earnings management and real transactions management, a potentially unethical practice, in firms with powerful CFOs who have short pay durations. We discuss the implications of our analysis in the context of mitigating CFO power and managing the ethical environment “tone at the top.”

Keywords: Chief Financial Officers, Compensation, Pay Duration, Incentives, Earnings Management

JEL Classification: J33, M41, M52

Suggested Citation

Collins, Denton and Fleischman, Gary and Kaden, Stacey and Sanchez, Juan Manuel, How Powerful CFOs Camouflage and Exploit Equity-Based Incentive Compensation (January 9, 2017). AAA 2014 Management Accounting Section (MAS) Meeting Paper, Journal of Business Ethics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2311422 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2311422

Denton Collins

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

School of Accounting
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

Gary Fleischman

Texas Tech University ( email )

2500 Broadway
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

Stacey Kaden

Truman State University ( email )

100 E. Normal Street
Kirksville, MO 63501
United States

Juan Manuel Sanchez (Contact Author)

University of Texas at San Antonio ( email )

One UTSA Circle
San Antonio, TX 78249
United States

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