Highest-paid CEOs run worst-performing companies, research finds

Research firm finds businesses led by lower-paid CEOs earn greater shareholder return

Peter Yeung
Wednesday 27 July 2016 17:07
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The report looked at the salaries of 800 CEOs at 429 large and medium-sized companies
The report looked at the salaries of 800 CEOs at 429 large and medium-sized companies

The highest-paid CEOs tend to run some of the worst-performing companies, according to new research.

The study, carried out by corporate research firm MSCI, found that for every $100 (£76) invested in companies with the highest-paid CEOs would have grown to $265 (£202) over 10 years.

But the same amount invested in the companies with the lowest-paid CEOs would have grown to $367 (£279) over a decade.

Titled 'Are CEOs paid for performance? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Equity Incentives', the report looked at the salaries of 800 CEOs at 429 large and medium-sized US companies between 2005 and 2014 and compared it with the total shareholder return of the companies.

The report notes: “Equity incentive awards now comprise 70 per cent or more of total summary CEO pay in the United States, based on our calculations. Yet we found little evidence to show a link between the large proportion of pay that such awards represent and long-term company stock performance.

“In fact, even after adjusting for company size and sector, companies with lower total summary CEO pay levels more consistently displayed higher long-term investment returns.

Recommending the focus shift away from annual reports to longer-term performance, it adds: “Closer scrutiny of the relationship between CEO pay and performance over longer time periods could lead to different conclusions.”

Ric Marshall, a senior corporate governance researcher at MSCI, said in a statement: “The highest paid had the worst performance by a significant margin. It just argues for the equity portion of CEO pay to be more conservative.”

“Whether you look at the entire group or adjust by market-cap and sector, you really get very similar results.”

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