A new survey has found that more than two-thirds of large, publicly-traded U.S. companies disclosed the specific goals used in their executive compensation plans in their 2008 proxy statements.
Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a global consulting firm, found that 68 percent of the companies it surveyed had disclosed "the actual goals on which they based their rewards under their 2007 annual incentive plans." In 2007, just over half (54 percent) of such companies disclosed these goals.
Under new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules, this information should be provided "unless providing it would result in competitive harm," Watson Wyatt explained.
"With more companies disclosing their goals, it is easier to determine if pay programs are rewarding executives for maximizing shareholder value," Ira Kay, global director of compensation consulting at Watson Wyatt., said in a press release announcing the survey results. "The SEC wants to give shareholders the ability to determine if goals are too easy or too hard and if executives are focused on the right things. Without disclosure of specific financial goals--for example, earnings per share growth of 10 percent--shareholders will have difficulty determining if their company follows its pay-for-performance philosophy."
Watson Wyatt further found that only 56 percent of companies provided a detailed description of how total pay earned by executives during 2007 tied to company performance. And, while the SEC had requested that companies provide an analysis of how well they performed versus their industry peers, just 36 of respondents reported that they provided this analysis, according to the survey.
"Most companies have a very positive pay-for-performance story to share, yet a surprisingly large number are not taking the opportunity to tell it," said Steve Seelig, executive compensation counsel at Watson Wyatt. "Showing how executive pay varies with performance and compares to the competition would go a long way in addressing the concerns of shareholders and critics of the U.S. executive pay model."