Peer-Group Choice, Chief Executive Officer Compensation, and Firm Performance
61 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2019 Last revised: 19 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 17, 2021
We examine the selection of peer groups that boards of directors use when setting CEO compensation. The challenge is to ascertain whether peer groups are selected to (i) attract and retain executive talent and/or (ii) enable rent extraction by inappropriately increasing compensation. We find that the inferences in prior research are based on questionable methodological choices and do not generalize with an expanded sample. After addressing these concerns, we find that, on average, excess peer compensation has a negative association with future firm operating performance. However, significant variation in CEO talent and corporate governance exists within the cross-section of firms. The negative association between excess peer compensation and future performance is mitigated when the firm has a high level of CEO talent, and exacerbated when the firm has low-quality corporate governance. Thus, the economic consequences of peer-group choice are highly contextual. In general, we find that talent motivations explain more of the variation in the future performance implications of peer-group choice than corporate governance.
Keywords: CEO Compensation; Peer Groups; Agency Problems; CEO Labor Market
JEL Classification: M12; M52; G30; J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation