Agency Costs in the Era of Economic Crisis: The Enhanced Connection Between CEO Compensation and Corporate Cash Holdings

This Article reports the results of an empirical study that suggest that the current economic crisis has changed managerial behavior in the United States in a way that may impede economic recovery. The study finds a strong, statistically significant, and economically meaningful, positive correlation between CEO total annual compensation and corporate cash holdings during the economic crisis in the years 2008—2010. Such a significant correlation did not exist in prior years. The empirical findings suggest that high CEO compensation increases managerial risk-aversion in times of crisis. The Article considers several explanations for these empirical findings, some of which imply a market failure. The study has implications for the discussion on managerial pay arrangements and the implementation of the Dodd–Frank Act concerning say on pay.