Is Your CEO Worth His Pay?

August 16, 2010 by
Due to public pressure on Wall Street CEOs to lower top management compensation and following Obama’s administration plans to order large cuts in executive compensation at companies that have received federal bailout funds many executives received a $500,000 pay cap and others received a very large pay cut, for example in 2008 Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, made over $35 million but in 2009 he made “only” $1.3 million.

Does this mean that the CEOs were over-valued or in other words they were not worth it? This    would indeed be the opinion of most people.  However, this may not be correct according to a new research done by Dr. Candie Chang, a senior finance lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at Massey University

Chief executives are worth their pay

Dr Chang Candie

New research suggests the whopping pay packets of many chief executives may not only be justified but vital to ensure business success.

An analysis of share market responses to chief executives leaving their jobs shows if the company has been performing better than competitors the market reacts more negatively to the news of the chief's departure in anticipation of shareholder wealth loss.

Dr Candie Chang, a senior finance lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance, says her research indicates that a good chief executive officer is worth his or her high salary, bonuses and stock options, despite the somewhat jaundiced public view of high profile excesses revealed during the company collapses of recent years.

Dr Chang's research paper, called CEO Ability, Pay, and Firm Performance, is due to be published in the United States journal Management Science this year. She studied 298 chief executive departures in the United States in the decade from 1992. She says her findings suggest that the stock market associates better prior performance and higher pay with a more capable chief executive. Not only that, but the higher the pay of the departing chief executive compared to other executives in the company, the more negative the stock price reaction.

“The recent financial crisis and the storm over the pay of executives in financial firms have brought the questions of whether chief executives meaningfully add value to the companies they manage, and whether their pay reflects ability or power, into sharp focus,” Dr Chang says.

“Collectively, our results provide strong support for the notion that firm value and performance are not simply outcomes of the firm’s core competency, product markets, or luck. Chief executive talent matters and is rewarded internally and recognised by external markets.”

She also studied where chief executives end up when they leave their companies and found two extremes. The first was that many do not have management positions within three years but at the other end, several move up to bigger firms or better paying jobs.

“We find that chief executive officers are more likely to 'move up' when the market reacts more negatively to their departure,” Dr Chang says. “The results suggest that the managerial labour market associates higher pay and better prior performance with higher chief executive ability and rewards them accordingly.”

Firms that lost a highly paid chief executive suffered a slump in performance after the departure if the prior performance had been good and the stock market reacted negatively to the departure.

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