Controllability of Risk and the Design of Incentive-Compensation Contracts

Christopher S. Armstrong, Stephen Glaeser and Sterling Huang

Abstract

We examine how the ability to control firm exposure to risk affects the design of executive compensation contracts. To do so, we use the introduction of exchanged-traded weather derivatives, which significantly increased executives’ ability to control their firms’ exposure to weather risk, as a natural experiment. We find that executives for whom weather derivatives have the greatest impact on the ability to control firm exposure to weather risk experience relative declines in total compensation and equity incentives. The former finding is consistent with a reduction in the risk premium that executives receive for their firms’ exposure to weather risk. The latter finding suggests that risk and incentives are complements when executives can control their firms’ exposure to risk. Collectively, our results show that the executives’ ability to control their firms’ exposure to risk alters the nature of agency conflicts and influences the design of incentive-compensation contracts.

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