Shareholder Voice and Executive Compensation

98 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2023 Last revised: 27 Nov 2023

Date Written: October 28, 2023


Managerial influence on the Board of Directors induces an agency problem in the design of executive compensation. I evaluate the role of shareholder voice in disciplining compensation practices. I estimate a model of CEO compensation with non-binding shareholder approval votes (Say-on-Pay). The Board sets CEO pay and is biased towards a high wage; shareholders can fail the Say-on-Pay (SOP) and punish the Board for overpayment. Failed votes are perceived as costly by both the Board and shareholders: a cost of 2.06% (0.76%) of value for the Board (shareholders) is sufficient to match the data. SOP thus resembles a costly punishment mechanism and the disciplining effect of SOP increases firm value. Empirical evidence suggests the Board cost is a career and reputation concern for directors, and shareholders internalize a cost to dissenting from the Board on a prominent policy. I construct a counterfactual SOP mechanism which emulates giving a focal shareholder an advisory seat on the Board; this lowers the SOP failure rate, decreases wages and increases firm value.

Keywords: shareholder voice, corporate governance, executive compensation, shareholder voting, say-on-pay, structural estimation, corporate finance, CEOs

JEL Classification: G30, G34

Suggested Citation

Barry, John W., Shareholder Voice and Executive Compensation (October 28, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

John W. Barry (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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