Get access

Compensation Consultants and CEO Pay: UK Evidence


  • All three authors are based at Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester. Voulgaris is a Ph.D. candidate of Accounting and Finance, Stathopoulos is a Lecturer of Finance and Walker is a Professor of Accounting and Finance.

Manchester Business School, Crawford House, Mezzanine Floor, MBS Crawford, Booth St East, M15 6PB, Manchester, UK. Tel: 44-161-275-6863; E-mail:


Manuscript Type: Empirical

Research Question/Issue: This paper provides new evidence on the effect of compensation consultants on CEO pay.

Research Findings/Insights: We produce new evidence on the managerial power approach (MPA) to corporate governance by examining the influence of compensation consultants on CEO pay structures and the decision to hire a compensation consultant in the UK. We find evidence that is not consistent with the MPA. Contrary to the MPA predictions, we find that the positive effect of consultants on CEO pay levels mainly stems from an increase in equity-based compensation. We show that consultants exert a negative influence on basic (cash) pay. In addition, we illustrate that the choice of hiring a consultant can be explained by economic determinants, e.g., firm governance characteristics. The existence of a powerful CEO does not increase the likelihood of hiring a pay consultant. The results are robust to several model specifications and tests for selection bias.

Theoretical/Academic Implications: The results indicate that compensation consultants may have a positive effect on the structure of CEO pay since they encourage incentive-based compensation. We also show that economic determinants, rather than CEO power, explain the decision to hire compensation consultants. Overall, our results cast doubts on the conclusions of the MPA regarding the role of compensation consultants. Their role can be better explained within the optimal contracting framework.

Practitioner/Policy Implications: This study offers insights to the positive effect the hiring of a pay consultant could have towards the design of a CEO pay contract.

Get access to the full text of this article