Are CEOs Rewarded for Luck? Evidence from Corporate Tax Windfalls
55 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2022 Last revised: 3 Aug 2023
Date Written: August 11, 2022
We take advantage of a 2017 change in tax rules in the U.S. to re-examine whether CEOs are rewarded for luck. We examine the effect of one-off tax gains and losses associated with deferred tax assets and liabilities on CEO compensation around the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017. Relative to other years, we find that less visible firms compensated their CEOs more for the one-time tax windfall gains during the TCJA-transition period. Further, we find evidence in support of pay asymmetry; CEOs of less visible firms were compensated more for tax windfall gains but were not compensated less for tax windfall losses. The CEO pay associated with the tax windfalls cannot be explained as firms sharing these tax gains with all employees. These results are consistent with rent-extraction by CEOs of less visible firms.
Keywords: Executive compensation, pay for luck, corporate taxes, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
JEL Classification: G30, H25, J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation