Human Capital & Careers

Survey Says Comp Rules No Big Deal

Even as multiple Senate hearings focus on executive compensation, a survey of human resource professionals says new SEC rules will have little impa...
Stephen TaubSeptember 6, 2006

A majority of corporate human resources and compensation executives are treating the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new executive pay disclosure rules as much ado about nothing.

According to a survey by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 54 percent said the SEC’s new rules, which apply to 2007 proxy filings, will not have any effect on executive pay levels.

Just 28 percent of nearly 200 polled said the rules will decrease executive pay levels.

What’s more, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) said the new rules will not improve corporate performance, compared with 11 percent who think they will.

The Watson Wyatt survey comes out on a day when Capitol Hill is focused heavily on executive compensation. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs are holding hearings Wednesday on executive compensation, with SEC enforcement director Linda Chatman Thomsen testifying before the Finance Committee and chairman Christopher Cox testifying before the Banking Committee.

“The new rules may not have a large impact on executive pay levels or corporate performance, but they will strengthen the link between the two,” said Ira Kay, global director of compensation consulting at Watson Wyatt, in a press release. “While executive pay-for-performance programs have generally been working well throughout corporate America, the greater transparency created by the rules should ensure that they continue to do so.”

Although the new rules go into effect within six months for most calendar-year companies, Watson Wyatt found that most companies are not planning immediate changes to their compensation programs.

According to the survey, a mere 5 percent said they plan to change their programs.

Nearly half (49 percent), however, are not planning changes, and 45 percent have not yet decided.

Even so, Kay asserted in the press release that the new rules will add pressure on companies to increase their reliance on performance-based compensation and decrease the value of supplemental retirement plans, severance packages and perquisites.

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