Do US Market Interactions Affect CEO Pay? Evidence from UK Companies
Executive Summary — CEOs of UK firms receive higher total compensation if their companies have interactions with US product, capital, and labor markets. Moreover, the compensation package is often adopted from American-style arrangements, such as the use of incentive-based pay. Researchers Joseph J. Gerakos (University of Chicago), Joseph D. Piotroski (Stanford), and Suraj Srinivasan (Harvard Business School) analyzed data on the compensation practices of 416 publicly traded UK firms over the period 2002 to 2007. Key concepts include:
- The reason to compare similarity with the level and style of US pay is because CEOs of US companies typically are among the highest paid in the world.
- The UK firms' interactions with US markets were measured on four variables: the relative importance of US sales to the firm, the level of prior US acquisition activity, the presence of a US exchange listing, and the US board experience of the firm's directors.
- All four US market interaction variables correlated with greater pay, but only US operational activities (sales and acquisitions) were associated with pay similar to US-style contracts.
- The increased compensation alleviates internal and external pay disparities arising from the presence of US operations and businesses, and compensates CEOs for bearing the additional risk and responsibility associated with exposure to foreign securities laws and legal environments.
This paper examines the extent that interactions with U.S. markets impact the compensation practices of non-U.S. firms. Using a sample of large U.K. companies, we find that the total compensation of U.K. CEOs is positively related to the extent of the firm's interactions with U.S. markets, as captured by the percentage of total sales generated in the U.S., the presence of prior U.S. acquisition activity, the presence of a U.S. exchange listing, and CEO and director-level U.S. board experience. More importantly, we find that exposure to U.S. product markets is associated with the adoption of U.S.-style compensation arrangements (i.e., incentive-based pay packages). In contrast, we find no such association with exposures to other (non-U.S.) foreign product markets. Together, our evidence is consistent with U.S. market interactions impacting U.K. compensation practices through two mechanisms: 1) to alleviate internal and external pay disparities arising from the presence of U.S. operations and businesses (proxied by the percent U.S. sales and prior U.S. acquisitions) and 2) to compensate CEOs for bearing the additional risk and responsibility associated with exposure to foreign securities laws and legal environments (proxied by both U.S. and non-U.S. exchange listings).