Abstract - Executive Stock Options When Managers Are Loss-Averse

This paper analyzes optimal executive compensation contracts when managers are loss averse. We establish the general optimal contract analytically and parameterize the model using data on compensation contracts for 595 CEOs. Parameters for preferences are based on the experimental literature. Overall, the Loss Aversion-model dominates an equivalent Risk Aversion-model, especially with respect to its ability to predict options as part of the optimal contract. The Loss Aversion-model performs well in terms of predicting observed compensation contracts if the reference wage is assumed to lie not too far above previous year's fixed wage. Our results suggest that loss aversion is a better paradigm for analyzing design features of stock options and for developing preference-based valuation models than the conventional model used in the literature.

Ernst Maug
Mannheim University
19.Jun 2007

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