Information Intermediary or De Facto Standard Setter?: Field Evidence on the Indirect and Direct Influence of Proxy Advisors
58 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2019 Last revised: 12 Feb 2019
Date Written: January 1, 2019
We examine whether proxy advisory firms (PAs) serve primarily an information intermediary role by providing research and voting recommendations to shareholders, or directly influence executive compensation by exerting pressure on firms to adopt preferred pay practices. Through a field study, we find that PAs are perceived as both information intermediaries and agenda setters and that these roles provide leverage to enable PAs to exercise significant influence over executive pay practices. Boards feel, and sometimes yield to, pressure to conform to PA “best” practices despite their own preferred compensation philosophies, even in the absence of overt PA scrutiny or negative shareholder votes. We also find that PAs are susceptible to conflicts of interest and generally use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to voting recommendations. Overall, however, PAs are viewed as improving compensation practices by increasing transparency and accountability and fostering dialogue between firms and their shareholders.
Keywords: Executive Compensation, Proxy Advisors, Information Intermediary, De Facto Standard Setter
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