“Guess Who’s also Minding Your Business? The Effect of Credit Ratings Changes on CEO Incentives” by Qiao LIU
University of Hong Kong
University of Miami
This study documents that changes in credit ratings significantly affect chief executive officer’s (CEO’s) pay-performance sensitivity. Modeling credit ratings changes and changes in CEO incentive levels as jointly endogenous, we identify significant and robust evidence that CEO incentives tend to increase subsequent to credit downgrades and decrease after credit upgrades. We find that the effects of credit ratings changes on CEO incentives are stronger for larger firms, for firms with investment-grade debts and larger presence of institutional investors, and for firms whose investors have less access to public information. More importantly, we find that the credit ratings changes have larger impacts on CEO incentives for firms whose CEOs have been previously mis-compensated. Our empirical findings suggest that rating agencies’, or more generally, debt-holders’, disciplines complement equity-based incentive pay schemes to resolve agency conflicts between managers and stakeholders.