Unpacking the dynamics of a contested practice: The case of executive compensation and the shareholder value orientation in the USA

Edward J. Carberry*, Edward J. Zajac

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The corporate scandals and market crashes of the 2000s generated significant criticism of the shareholder value orientation (SVO) in the USA. We offer a sociopolitical analysis of how this criticism triggered changes in stock-based executive compensation, a central practice associated with the SVO. We first analyze how corporate stakeholders redefined different forms of stock-based compensation, motivated new regulations and wielded direct challenges to specific firms. We then predict how firm-specific differences in external challenges and intra-firm power relationships were related to changes in the use of stock options and restricted stock grants (RSGs), testing our predictions using a longitudinal dataset of S&P 500 executives between 2002 and 2012. We find that firms facing negative media coverage of their executive compensation practices made less use of both forms of stock-based compensation, while firms facing shareholder activism only made less use of stock options, the form that was more heavily criticized. In addition, firms with more powerful CEOs utilized RSGs more heavily and did so even when facing media criticism. Our findings demonstrate that while stock options were vulnerable to change, stock-based compensation remained resilient because the structural power of CEOs, a core corporate governance feature of the SVO, also remained resilient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-187
Number of pages31
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Keywords

  • contested practice
  • corporate governance
  • G34
  • institutional change
  • M12
  • media
  • shareholders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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