I’ve been reading
For anyone who still believes that executive pay is based on rewarding performance, and encouraging risk-taking, this book should disabuse them. There are loads of studies pointing out, not surprisingly to anyone who reads the papers, that top executives and boards look after each other in a way that rewards failure.
The most telling detail for me is the observation p98, that every single CEO in the S&P Execucomp Database has a defined benefit pension plan. This, while bosses everywhere have been shifting their employees onto defined contribution plans, where they, and not the company, bear all the risk, and while the Republicans in the US are trying to do the same with Social Security.
One thing I would have liked more of is quantitative information about the aggregate magnitude of payments to executive pay, considered in relation to corporate profits. There’s only a little of this in the book, though the authors say here
Aggregate top-five compensation was equal to 10 percent of aggregate corporate earnings in 1998-2002, up from 6 percent of aggregate corporate earnings during 1993-1997.
Given that this excludes various kinds of hidden transfers, that non-executive board members extract substantial rents (mostly through favorable corporate decisions rather than in cash) and considering senior managers, rather than merely top-5 executives, as a class, it’s apparent that the total rents income flowing to this group could easily be between 25 and 50 per cent of aggregate corporate profits. If this is correct, it ought to have profound implications for the way in which we model corporations, and the way in which we think about the class structure of modern capitalism.
fn1. It’s not clear whether retirement benefits are counted, for example, and these are as large, in present value terms, as direct compensation. Then there is the observation that executive insiders do remarkably well in trading the shares of their own companies.