Incentive alignment through performance-focused shareholder proposals on management compensation


Published: 21Aug2014

Authors: Fortin, Steve; Subramaniam, Chandra; Wang, Xufrank; Zhang, Sanjian

Publication: Journal of Contemporary Accounting and Economics


We investigate an emerging pay-performance activism under a natural setting of performance-focused shareholder proposals rule (PSPs) (Rule 14a-8) established by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for top management compensation. We find that: (1) PSP sponsors successfully identify firms that suffer from a misalignment of managers and shareholders' interests; (2) CEOs' pay-for-performance sensitivity increases in the post-proposal period; and (3) shareholders benefit through positive stock returns as related to proposal filing dates; while (4) bondholders suffer significant negative returns and even more so for high-leverage firms. Our additional analyses suggest that perceived risk increase is the main driver of observed negative abnormal bond returns. However, we fail to find similar results for shareholder proposals not focused on performance (NPSPs). Collectively, our results indicate that shareholders benefit from this pay-performance activism through PSPs (but not NPSPs), but potentially at the expense of bondholders.