Compensation transparency and managerial opportunism: a study of supplemental retirement plans

Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Strategic Management Journal (Impact Factor: 3.78). 03/2009; 30(4):405 - 423. DOI: 10.1002/smj.737

ABSTRACT Existing research on managerial compensation is based primarily on optimal contracting and managerial hegemony theories. Under the optimal contracting theory, observed compensation contracts are optimally determined, aligning the interests of managers and shareholders. Under the managerial hegemony theory, observed compensation contracts deviate from the optimum because top managers with power over boards are able to influence their own pay. I argue that the impact of managerial power over boards on managerial pay, and hence the deviation of compensation contracts from the optimum, is contingent on the transparency of managerial compensation. Within this framework, I investigate the impact of supplemental executive retirement plans (SERPs)— historically the least transparent compensation component— on opportunistic decision making. An empirical analysis based on a time series sample of CEOs of S&P/TSX60 firms provides support of the compensation transparency theory. I find that SERP benefits are primarily driven by variables proxying for CEO power over the board, whereas more transparent compensation components are primarily driven by economic factors. The results also suggest that CEOs whose SERPs are contingent on firm performance appear to reduce firm R&D expenditures as they approach retirement. Both findings provide important contributions to existing research on the impact of managerial compensation on opportunistic decisions. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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