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Title: Three Essays on CEO Compensation in the UK
Author(s): Minhat, Marizah
Supervisor(s): Kabir, Rezaul
Veld, Chris
Keywords: Chief Executive Officer
defined-benefit pensions
executive pensions
stock options
compensation consultants
earnings management
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis comprises three studies on CEO compensation in the UK. It specifically examines the role of CEO defined-benefit pensions, compensation consultants and CEO stock options. Firstly, research on the role of executive pensions is still at a stage of infancy due to data difficulties (Sundaram and Yermack, 2007). By taking advantage of better disclosure requirements with the introduction of Directors’ Remuneration Report Regulations (DRRR) in 2002, this thesis examines the determinants and effects of CEO defined-benefit pensions. Consistent with rent extraction hypothesis (Bebchuk and Fried, 2005; Kalyta and Magnan, 2008), it finds that pensions are largely determined by CEO power over boards of directors. There is no evidence that pensions reduce the agency cost of debt as suggested by Edmans (2008) and Sundaram and Yermack (2007). Instead they increase the agency cost of equity by discouraging CEO risk-taking and reducing pay-performance relationship. Consistent with the argument in Gustman et al. (1994), Ippolito (1991) and Lazear (1990), this thesis also finds that pensions do bond a CEO to the firm she manages. Secondly, because of the lack of disclosure regarding compensation consultants used by companies, the empirical evidence is so far limited on how the practice of employing compensation consultants influences CEO pay. By taking advantage of better disclosure requirements since the publication of the DRRR (2002), this thesis examines the effect of using compensation consultants on CEO pay. Unlike Murphy and Sandino (2008), this thesis finds no evidence that firms use multiple pay consultants to justify or legitimize higher CEO pay. In light of the managerial power theory, this thesis instead finds that pay consultants are more concerned with the risk of losing business with their client firms. This latter finding explains why the use of pay consultants is associated with greater executive pay (see Armstrong, Ittner and Larcker, 2008; Cadman, Carter and Hillegeist, in press; Conyon, Peck and Sadler, 2009; Murphy and Sandino, 2008; Voulgaris, Stathopoulos and Walker, 2009). Thirdly, despite the importance of the issue, the existence of a link between the CEO stock options and earnings management is currently understudied in the UK. The UK context is appealing because of two distinctive corporate governance features that limit opportunistic earnings management. These are the absence of CEO duality in general (Cornett, Marcus, and Tehranian, 2008) and the increased outside director’s membership on boards since the publication of the Cadbury Report (1992) (Peasnell, Pope, and Young, 2000). By examining earnings management prior to stock option grant and exercise periods, this thesis adds to the study of Kuang (2008) that examines earnings management during stock option vesting periods. Overall, some evidence has been found that earnings are managed downwards prior to stock option grant periods. Consistent with the US-based studies, this thesis finds strong evidence of upward earnings management prior to a stock option exercise period. It shows that the UK’s distinctive governance features have not restrained opportunistic earnings management prior to stock option grants and exercises. In brief, this thesis provides some empirical evidence that the use of two pay components in the CEO pay package, namely, the defined-benefit pensions and stock options, do not necessarily promote CEO-shareholder interest alignment. The use of pay consultants in CEO pay-setting is also fraught with managerial influence. In support of the managerial power theory, I therefore suggest that these three factors can be abused by CEOs to extract excess compensation at the expense of shareholders. In this context, these three factors can themselves be considered as the sources of the agency cost. Future research might examine the mechanisms that can be deployed to govern the use of defined-benefit pensions, stock options and pay consultants in CEO pay design.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: Stirling Management School
Accounting and Finance

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