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June 12, 2009

What You Pay or How You Pay?

Catherine New
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On Thursday the Treasury announced their choice of executive pay overseer, Kenneth R. Feinberg, who will have the task of setting compensation of the top 25 executives at seven financial firms. The new appointment challenges the view that it is not what you pay, but how you pay, that matters, says accounting professor Sudhakar V. Balachandran.

“What we have seen to date tells us that reforms in how boards set compensation are warranted, and that there needs to be a better relationship between pay and performance, particularly performance that is not immediately observable, ” he says.

“That said, it is a completely different matter to say that a centralized body in Washington D.C. can do this better, ” Balachandran continues. “Boards have substantially more information about the company and its circumstances and by centralizing the process we might be throwing away a lot of valuable information. There is a difference between providing reform to the compensation process and providing a centralized compensation policies that are determined by a political process. I believe only the former has a chance of success but I’m afraid we may be heading towards the latter. ”

Photo credit: Michael Aston