CEO Compensation in the U.S.: Are CEOs Underpaid or Overpaid ?

Phillip James, Il-woon Kim


This study investigates the adequacy of CEO compensation from the perspective of using accounting measures to assess the performance of CEOs. The main objective of this research is to determine to what extent compensation packages received by American CEOs represent an underpayment of CEOs based on the performance of their firms when firm performance is defined in terms of accounting measures. CEO compensation data are obtained from Compustat, 10K SEC filings, and Forbes listing of CEO data.  The analysis covers a two-phased time period i.e., before and after the financial crisis in the USA. CEO compensation data are analyzed for the years 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 (pre-financial crisis) and for years 2009 to 2013 (post financial crisis). Multiple regression models consisting of six accounting performance measures are used to perform the analysis to determine the extent of CEO underpayment or overpayment. Having examined 1151 CEO compensation packages to determine if CEO underpayment exist in light of what is an overwhelming literature supporting CEO overpayment, the results show that 67.33% of the CEOs were in fact underpaid based on their firms performance, and only 32.67% (376 CEOs) were overpaid based on firm performance.

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Accounting and Finance Research
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