DP6422 Serial CEO Incentives and the Structure of Managerial Contracts

Author(s): Mariassunta Giannetti
Publication Date: August 2007
Keyword(s): executive compensation, managerial labour market, short-termism
JEL(s): G32, J33, L14
Programme Areas: Financial Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=6422

This paper analyzes the optimal contracting consequences of a recent phenomenon in the managerial labour market, CEO job hopping. I show that if the managerial labour market is thin and firm growth opportunities are weak, the optimal contract rewards the CEO for past performance through a bonus. Nevertheless, the CEO takes a long horizon in selecting corporate strategies. If firm growth opportunities improve, but prospects of job-hopping remain limited, the optimal contract includes restricted-equity-like claims, but overall compensation does not increase. However, if the managerial labour market provides more opportunities for job-hopping, large differences in the structure and the level of managerial compensation emerge. If firm growth opportunities are weak, it is optimal to offer a bonus contract, even though the CEO selects an inefficient short-term strategy. If firm growth opportunities are strong, a large amount of long-term equity compensation mitigates short-termist incentives. This drives a surge in CEO compensation. I show that, under these conditions, the optimal contract may include non-restricted equity even though the main problem is managerial retention. Finally, I argue that the model can explain both the surge in U.S. CEO compensation and the differences in managerial compensation across countries and across firms within a country.