Pay for Outsiders: Incentive Compensation for Nonfamily Executives in Family Firms
Posted: 11 Dec 2020 Last revised: 4 Feb 2021
Date Written: September 15, 2020
We use a hand-collected sample of 1,628 S&P 1500 firms and more than 12,000 executives to examine how family firms compensate nonfamily executives. Family firms comprise a large percentage of firms around the world, and most of their executives are not members of the founding family. Moreover, the founding family’s engagement in the firm alters agency conflicts, which in turn should influence the design of incentive compensation. However, there is no empirical evidence on whether and how the incentive compensation of nonfamily executives differs between family and nonfamily firms. Our study intends to fill this gap in the literature. Consistent with our predictions, nonfamily executives in family firms receive significantly less performance-based pay and equity-based pay. Family monitoring, risk aversion, and a reluctance to dilute family ownership all contribute to the pay differences. Although incentive pay and total pay are lower in family firms, nonfamily executives receive safer pay and enjoy greater job stability. An analysis of executives’ moves across firms suggests that ownership structure, not executives’ preferences, is more likely the driver of pay differences between family and nonfamily firms. Our findings suggest that researchers should consider founding-family engagement to avoid misleading inferences with regard to the determinants of incentive compensation, and our findings should help compensation consultants better understand and implement pay packages for family firms and nonfamily firms. The results also imply that uniform compensation regulations intended to improve the monitoring of executives in widely held firms may not be as effective in family firms.
Keywords: Executive Compensation for Nonfamily Executives, Family Monitoring, Risk Aversion, Ownership Dilution
JEL Classification: G30, G32, J33, M12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation