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Does CEO compensation suppress employee wages?

Rachel Graefe-Anderson (College of Business, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA)
Unyong Pyo (Department of Finance, Operations, and Information Systems, Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada)
Baoqi Zhu (Risk Control, CIBC, Toronto, ON, Canada)

Review of Accounting and Finance

ISSN: 1475-7702

Article publication date: 6 November 2018

Issue publication date: 22 November 2018




This study aims to examine the impact of CEO equity-based compensation (EBC) on employee wages. It also examines the impact of EBC on average employee wages in different industries and business cycles.


The authors use pay-performance sensitivity (PPS) to measure for CEO EBC and run OLS models with year and industry dummies. As many firms do not report labor expenses, the authors conduct the two-step analysis as in Heckman (1979) to overcome the potential selection bias.


The authors find that CEOs with higher EBC tend to pay their employees lower wages. They also find that such an impact is more evident in non-technology firms than in technology firms. Finally, they find that CEOs with higher PPS are more likely to depress employee wages when the business cycle shows a downturn.


No study examines the impact of EBC on employee wages directly to date. The authors add to the existing stream of literature regarding employee wages and managerial compensation. Hence, they purport that the findings support existing literature suggesting EBC contributes to, rather than alleviates, the classic agency conflict. Finally, the evidence suggests an unexplored manifestation of that agency conflict and an additional source of CEO rent extraction.



Graefe-Anderson, R., Pyo, U. and Zhu, B. (2018), "Does CEO compensation suppress employee wages?", Review of Accounting and Finance, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 426-452.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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