Target Performance Goals in CEO Compensation Contracts and Management Earnings Guidance
63 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2017 Last revised: 6 Sep 2018
Date Written: March 11, 2017
We study how compensation committees set CEOs’ earnings performance goals in annual incentive plans (AIPs) and their implications for managers’ strategic earning guidance behavior. We find corporate boards rely on earnings forecasts provided by both financial analysts and managers in setting performance goals. Also, the weight boards place on a manager’s earnings forecasts increases with managers’ information advantage over analysts. We next examine the implications of this process for management earnings guidance. We find that the forecasts issued by management ahead of compensation committee meetings (“event-window guidance”) are more pessimistic than those issued at other times. This pessimism in event-window earnings guidance is present when performance goals are linked to earnings-based measures such as Earnings-Per-Share (EPS), but not when they are linked to revenue, suggesting that pessimistic event-window guidance is likely motivated by a desire to depress earnings performance goals. Furthermore, pessimism in event-window guidance is associated with higher bonus payouts as well as total payouts to CEOs. Lastly, meeting or beating performance goals significantly reduces the likelihood of forced CEO turnover. Overall, this study provides insights into the process of setting managerial performance goals and management’s strategic disclosure behavior arising from this process.
Keywords: Annual Incentive Plan (bonus contracts), Performance Targets, Management Earnings Guidance
JEL Classification: G34, M41, M52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation