Motivating High‐impact Innovation: Evidence from Managerial Compensation Contracts
We investigate the relationship between Chief Executive Officer (CEO) compensation and firm innovation and find that long‐term incentives in the form of options, especially unvested options, and protection from managerial termination in the form of golden parachutes are positively related to corporate innovation, and particularly to high‐impact, exploratory (new knowledge creation) invention. Conversely, non‐equity pay has a detrimental effect on the input, output and impact of innovation. Tests using the passage of an option expensing regulation (FAS 123R) as an exogenous shock to option compensation suggest a causal interpretation for the link between long‐term pay incentives, patents and citations. Furthermore, we find that the decline in option pay following the implementation of FAS 123R has led to a significant reduction in exploratory innovation and therefore had a detrimental effect on innovation output. Overall, our findings support the idea that compensation contracts that protect from early project failure and incentivize long‐term commitment are more suitable for inducing high‐impact corporate innovation.