An analysis of CEO equity compensation in an incomplete contracting framework
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I investigate whether equity grants increase the costs of CEO dismissal or departure (Oyer, 2004; Almazan and Suarez, 2003). I argue that costs of dismissal are increased because equity grants become exercisable upon forced departure. Equity grants can increase the costs of leaving because voluntarily departing CEOs forfeit equity compensation upon departure. I follow Rajgopal, Shevlin and Zamora (2006) in linking CEO equity compensation to a measure of labor market competition in a sample of S&P1500 companies from 1996 to 2010. I find that the intensity of labor market competition measured by a Herfindahl-Hirschman Index across industries and states affects equity grants and that the correlation is reversed in the penultimate year of forced CEO departure. This is consistent with the view that CEOs are concerned about being replaced in competitive labor markets and therefore demand more compensation that converts into severance pay. Conversely, when a dismissal is anticipated, I argue that CEOs are concerned about finding new employment and are then insured against a lack of outside opportunities. In addition, I conduct an empirical investigation of the relationship between stock options, restricted stock grants and other long-term compensation between 2001 and 2006. I argue that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act did not increase managerial accountability (see for example Cohen, Dey and Lys, 2005) and that new accounting rules did not increase accounting costs of stock options (see for example Hayes, Lemmon and Qiu, 2012). Instead, I suggest that the effective prohibition of executive loans from firms and brokers made it prohibitively costly for CEOs to exercise stock options. I find that stock options began to be replaced with other long-term compensation as early as 2004. CEOs began to accumulate vested but unexercised stock options. I do not find evidence that CEOs sold vested stock to raise funds.In the final empirical chapter, I consider whether a Herfindahl-Hirschman Index across industries and states can be interpreted as a proxy for labor market competition. Aggarwal and Samwick (1999) argue that it is product market competition that affects CEO equity grants. My results are consistent with Rajgopal, Shevlin and Zamora (2006) who do not find evidence that product market competition has any significant impact on equity grants. Instead, I find that labor market competition retains a significant and positive impact in our tests, and notably holds for the largest single product market. The principal limitations of the project were found to be the difficulty of collecting data of intended turnover and classifying it into forced and voluntary turnover. With respect to loans to executives, loans by brokers are usually not disclosed. This study is the first to analyze equity compensation as severance arrangement. CEO cash constraints in exercising options is an unexplored explanation for their disappearance.