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Pay-for-performance incentives in the finance sector and the financial crisis

Sanjiv Jaggia (Orfalea College of Business, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
Satish Thosar (University of Redlands School of Business, Redlands, California, USA)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to investigate executive compensation in the finance sector during the periods surrounding the crisis with a view to determining whether compensation incentives were associated with excessive risk taking.


The authors compare pay-for-performance sensitivity (PFPS) parameters for the finance sector before, during, and after the financial crisis. The authors also employ the technology sector as a comparison benchmark.


The authors find that CEO compensation is strongly associated with the accounting-based return on assets performance measure in the finance sector particularly in the pre-crisis period; the relationship is amplified in larger firms. In contrast, the technology sector exhibits PFPS only for the market-based stockholder return measure with smaller firms displaying greater sensitivity.


From a public policy perspective, it is desirable that PFPS for senior executives in the finance sector is muted. This is due to the risk-shifting incentives specific to the sector whereby profits flow to managers/stockholders while catastrophic losses can be socialized through taxpayer funded bailouts. The findings imply that compensation practices in the finance sector remain a potential concern for systemic stability. In addition to academics and practitioners, the paper may be of interest to financial regulators. In the authors opinion they should consider monitoring PFPS in addition to capital ratios, credit default swap spreads, and other metrics in their risk containment strategies.



The authors are grateful to two anonymous referees for insightful and detailed comments that greatly improved the paper.


Jaggia, S. and Thosar, S. (2017), "Pay-for-performance incentives in the finance sector and the financial crisis", Managerial Finance, Vol. 43 No. 6, pp. 646-662.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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