As the son of an accountant, I was conditioned from a very early age to expect March and April to be busy times of the year. My dad, who is a partner in a boutique accounting firm in New York City, worked late nights and weekends each tax season. While I didn’t follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a CPA, my kids know that this is my busy time of year, too.
Retailers have Black Friday, accountants have April 15th, and at Equilar, we have proxy season. Since we started tracking executive compensation data in 2001, the months of March and April have always been an adventure. While we find ways to improve and streamline our operations each year, the sheer volume of work increases annually. The good news is that all of our hard work continues to find a receptive audience, as witnessed by recent stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other media outlets.
As part of our proxy season activities, we recently released our annual S&P 500 CEO pay analysis last week. While quite a bit of work went into preparing the analysis, the results didn’t quite rock anyone’s world. At the end of the day, an increase in CEO pay of 1.3 percent in 2007 was pretty tame, especially in light of the financial performance of S&P 500 companies over the same time period. Last year was the second consecutive year in which the pay of S&P 500 chiefs grew at a slower rate than the financial performance of the companies they lead.
While it’s debatable how much value investors are getting out of the new SEC disclosure rules, the analysis indicates that board members are taking pay decisions very seriously and that most companies are doing the right thing. Yes, there will always be companies that are in a state of denial and issues surrounding executive compensation will not be solved overnight. But overall, the trend is certainly to move in a more shareholder-friendly direction.
Now that we have the benefit of two years of data under the new SEC rules, it will be interesting to see year-over-year changes in key practice areas (such as perks, severance and change in control arrangements, and clawbacks, etc.) in future newsletters as we dig deeper. Stay tuned.No tags for this post.