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Les rétributions excessives des hauts dirigeants | Les causes, les effets et les solutions

30 avril 2013

Voici un document phare sur l’étude des rémunérations jugées excessives dans les grandes sociétés publiques. Cette recherche, dirigée par Charles M. Elson et Craig K. Ferrere de l’Université du Delaware*, a été acceptée pour publication dans le Journal of Corporation Law.

Les auteurs présentent plusieurs arguments qui remettent en cause l’étalonnage compétitif (competitive benchmarking), une méthode d’établissement de la rémunération jugée inflationniste. Les auteurs font la démonstration que cette façon de faire n’est pas justifiée et que ses effets ont des répercussions pernicieuses sur toute la structure de rémunération. En fait, l’hypothèse selon laquelle il faut rémunérer « grassement » les hauts dirigeants afin de les retenir ne tient pas la route.

L’article recommande aux comités de rémunération de s’éloigner des méthodes traditionnelles de « benchmarking » et de développer des standards internes de rémunération basés sur les spécificités de l’entreprise, notamment son environnement compétitif unique. Les comités de rémunération aurait avantage à prendre connaissance de cette étude. Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, un résumé de l’article.

Executive Superstars, Peer Groups and Overcompensation: Cause, Effect and Solution

In setting the pay of their CEOs, boards invariably reference the pay of the executives at other enterprises in similar industries and of similar size and complexity. In what is described as « competitive benchmarking », compensation levels are generally targeted to either the 50th, 75th, or 90th percentile. This process is alleged to provide an effective gauge of « market wages » which are necessary for executive retention. As we will describe, this conception of such a market was created purely by happenstance and based upon flawed assumptions, particularly the easy transferability of executive talent. Because of its uniform application across companies, the effects of structural flaws in its design significantly affect the level of executive compensation.

President Barack Obama delivering remarks on n...

President Barack Obama delivering remarks on new executive compensation restrictions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been observed in both the academic and professional communities that the practice of targeting the pay of executives to median or higher levels of the competitive benchmark will naturally create an upward bias and movement in total compensation amounts. Whether this escalation has been dramatic or merely incremental, the compounded effect has been to create a significant disparity between the pay of CEOs and what is appropriate to the companies they run. This is not surprising. By basing pay on primarily external comparisons, a separate regime which was untethered from the actual wage structures of the rest of the organization was established. Over time, these disconnected systems were bound to diverge.

The pay of a chief executive officer, however, has a profound effect on the incentive structure throughout the corporate hierarchy. Rising pay thus has costs far greater than the amount actually transferred to the CEOs themselves. To mitigate this, boards must set pay in a manner in which is more consistent with the internal corporate wage structures. An important step in that direction is to diminish the focus on external benchmarking.

We argue that: (I) theories of optimal market-based contracting are misguided in that they are predicated upon the chimerical notion of vigorous and competitive markets for transferable executive talent; (II) that even boards comprised of only the most faithful fiduciaries of shareholder interests will fail to reach an agreeable resolution to the compensation conundrum because of the unfounded reliance on the structurally malignant and unnecessary process of peer benchmarking; and, (III) that the solution lies in avoiding the mechanistic and arbitrary application of peer group data in arriving at executive compensation levels. Instead, independent and shareholder-conscious compensation committees must develop internally created standards of pay based on the individual nature of the organization concerned, its particular competitive environment and its internal dynamics.

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*Cette recherche a été financée par (1) The Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance, (2) The Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute et (3) The Social Science Research Network.

Articles reliés au sujet de la rémunération :

Les actionnaires doivent-ils être consultés sur les rémunérations des hauts dirigeants ? (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Executive Peer Groups – Your Virtual Board (peterdickinson.net)

Pay for Performance Disconnect Cited as Main Shareholder Concern in Say on Pay Vote Failures (sys-con.com)

Your benchmarking peer group says a lot about you (architects.dzone.com)

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