Pay for Performance … But Not Too Much Pay: The American Public’s View of CEO Pay

Pay for Performance … But Not Too Much Pay: The American Public’s View of CEO Pay

By
David F. Larcker, Brian Tayan
Stanford Closer Look Series. Corporate Governance Research Initiative, November
2019

Among the controversies in corporate governance, perhaps none is more heated or widely debated across society than that of CEO pay. The views that American citizens have on CEO pay is centrally important because public opinion influences political decisions that shape tax, economic, and regulatory policy, and ultimately determine the standard of living of average Americans. This Closer Look reviews survey data of the American public to understand their views on compensation. We ask:

  • How can society’s understanding of pay and value creation be improved and the controversy over CEO pay resolved?
  • How should the level of CEO pay rise with complexity and profitability, particularly among America’s largest corporations?
  • Should pay be reformed in the boardroom, or should high pay be addressed solely through the tax code?
  • Are negative views of CEO pay driven by broad skepticism and lack of esteem for CEOs? Or do high pay levels themselves contribute to low regard for CEOs?