Top‐Management Compensation and Capital Structure

  • Author(s): TERESA A. JOHN, KOSE JOHN
  • Published: Apr 30, 2012
  • Pages: 949-974
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.1993.tb04026.x


The interrelationship between top‐management compensation and the design and mix of external claims issued by a firm is studied. The optimal managerial compensation structures depend on not only the agency relationship between shareholders and management, but also the conflicts of interests which arise in the other contracting relationships for which the firm serves as a nexus. We analyze in detail the optimal management compensation for the cases when the external claims are (1) equity and risky debt, and (2) equity and convertible debt. In addition to the role of aligning managerial incentives with shareholder interests, managerial compensation in a levered firm also serves as a precommitment device to minimize the agency costs of debt. The optimal management compensation derived has low pay‐performance sensitivity. With convertible debt, instead of straight debt, the corresponding optimal managerial compensation has high pay‐to‐performance sensitivity. A negative relationship between pay‐performance sensitivity and leverage is derived. Our results provide a reconciliation of the puzzling evidence of Jensen and Murphy (1990) with agency theory. Other testable implications include (1) a relationship between the risk premium in corporate bond yields and top‐management compensation structures, and (2) the announcement effect of adoption of executive stock option plans on bond prices. The model yields implications for management compensation in banks and Federal Deposit Insurance reform. Our results explain the dynamics of top‐management compensation in firms going through financial distress and reorganization.

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