Corporate Governance, Compensation Consultants, and CEO Pay Levels

Corporate Governance, Compensation Consultants, and CEO Pay Levels

By
Christopher S. Armstrong, Christopher D. Ittner, David F. Larcker
Review of Accounting Studies. June
2012, Vol. 17, Issue 2, Pages 322–351

This study investigates the relation between corporate governance and CEO pay levels and the extent to which the higher pay found in firms using compensation consultants is related to governance differences. Using proxy statement disclosures from 2,110 companies, we find that CEO pay is higher in firms with weaker governance and that firms with weaker governance are more likely to use compensation consultants. CEO pay remains higher in clients of consulting firms even after controlling for economic determinants of compensation. However, when consultant users and non-users are matched on both economic and governance characteristics, differences in pay levels are not statistically significant, indicating that governance differences explain much of the higher pay in clients of compensation consultants. We find no support for claims that CEO pay is higher in potentially “conflicted” consultants that also offer additional non-compensation-related services.