• compensation structure;
  • stock options;
  • incentive effects;
  • equity risk;
  • firm performance

Abstract:  We test the hypothesis that the risk incentive effects of CEO stock option grants motivate managers to take on more risk than they would otherwise. Using a sample of mergers we document that the ratio of post- to pre-merger stock return variance is positively related to the risk incentive effect of CEO stock option compensation but this relationship is conditioned on firm size, with firm size having a moderating effect on the risk incentive effect of stock options. Using a broader time-series cross-sectional sample of firms we find a strong positive relationship between CEO risk incentive embedded in the stock options and subsequent equity return volatility. As in the case of the merger sample, this relationship is stronger for smaller firms.