Ownership structure and executive compensation in Canadian corporations
Agency theory, proposed by previous studies such as Guidry, Leone, and Rock (1999) and Arya and Huey-Lian (2004), suggests that bonus and other accounting-metric-based compensation can motivate managers to perform well in the short horizon while equity-based compensation, such as restricted shares and stock options, can serve the purpose of aligning the long run interests of shareholders and managers. The empirical evidence, for example Jensen and Murphy (1990), Kaplan (1994), Hall and Liebman (1998), Murphy (1999), Zhou (2000), and Chowdhury and Wang (2009), confirms that incentive compensation is popular in many countries. However, recent studies suggest that the relation between performance and incentive compensation is weak. Shaw and Zhang (2010) find that CEO bonus compensation is less sensitive to poor earnings performance than it is to good earnings performance. Fahlenbrach and Stulz (2011) study the relation between bank performance during the 2008 bank crisis and the bonus and equity-based compensation of bank CEOs. They find that banks with CEOs whose incentives were better aligned with the interests of shareholders performed worse than other banks. This study examines whether ownership structure can explain the differences among compensation structures of chief executive officers (CEOs). In particular, we examine the compensation structure of three distinct groups: family-controlled, institution-controlled, and widely-held firms. We distinguish these three kinds of firms to represent different levels of market imperfection. Compared with family-controlled and institution-controlled firms, widely held firms have dispersed ownership. The most significant weakness of a widely-held ownership structure is the lack of shareholder monitoring due to the unmatched benefit and cost of monitoring for small shareholders. In contrast, a holder of a large block of shares will have the same monitoring costs but the benefits to this shareholder from monitoring management and reducing agency costs would be substantial and larger than the costs of monitoring. Thus the presence of a large shareholder will reduce the agency costs. In addition, large shareholders may be willing to spend time and effort continuously to collect more information on management performance or to estimate the firm’s investment projects. This behaviour will reduce the problems that arise from information asymmetry and will decrease the waste of free cash flows by managers. Both family-controlled firms and institution-controlled firms have large shareholders. However, whether or not the control shareholders are playing an active monitoring role is still an important issue. From the viewpoint of aligning the interests of managers and shareholders, the family-controlled group is superior to the institution-controlled group. First, institutions are more flexible in moving their ownership from one firm to another depending on performance. If the costs of monitoring are high in comparison to the costs of rebalancing portfolios, institutions will choose to rebalance instead of monitoring. In contrast, a family that controls a firm does not have this flexibility. Second, family-controlled firms generally assign influential positions to family members whose focus is in line with that of the family group. Even though a non family member may be appointed as the manager, the level of monitoring is significant given the high ownership concentration by the family. However, the level of monitoring by a family may not necessarily translate into a reduction of agency costs for minority shareholders. Indeed, previous studies suggest that significant family ownership may lead to agency costs of its own. The family may divert company resources for its own benefit despite the presence of a manager who may or may not be a family member. Essentially, the family and the manager can collude to spend on perks and personal benefits at the expense of minority shareholders. Chourou (2010) suggests that excessive compensation of chief executive officers at some family owned Canadian corporations may be viewed as expropriation of minority rights. Overall, the main objective of this study is to examine whether block-holder monitoring is a substitute to the incentive components of compensation. We propose that as we move from widely-held to institution-controlled the level of monitoring may or may not increase. However, as we move further into higher control, as may be suggested by family ownership, the level of monitoring will increase but this monitoring may not necessarily reduce agency costs. The results show that the institution-controlled firms pay significantly less bonus compensation per dollar of assets than widely-held firms but the differences in equity based compensation are not significant. In addition, the family-controlled corporations offer the lowest performance-based compensation, bonus per dollar of assets, in comparison to the institution-controlled and the widely-held groups. These results indicate that the family-controlled Canadian corporations rely more on monitoring managers than paying them incentive payments in the form of bonus payments. In addition, our results indicate that the institutions which control corporations may be monitoring the managers of these corporations but this monitoring does not significantly reduce the need for the long-term incentive components of compensation. This result suggests that institutions may monitor the short-term performance effectively but they may prefer rebalancing their portfolio rather than monitoring long term performance.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentFinance and Management Science
ProgramFinance and Management Science
SupervisorTannous, George; Yang, Fan
CommitteeCyr, Don; Racine, Marie; Wu, Zhuyu
Copyright DateApril 2011