The differential compensation distribution of executives is an important direction of deepening the reform of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The compensation of SOEs is mainly decided by SASAC according to the unified compensation management method, and tends to adopt the equalitarian compensation distribution mode, leading to the generally low pay dispersion among non-CEO executives in SOEs, which greatly frustrates the work enthusiasm of the executives in SOEs, and often leads to more serious executive agency problems. However, there are few studies on the difference of compensation incentives in the top management team, which mainly focus on the vertical compensation gap between CEO and non-CEO executives, and the research on the internal compensation allocation of non-CEO executives is relatively scarce.
Using the compensation data of all the non-CEO executives in listed SOEs from 2005 to 2017, this paper studies whether the pay dispersion among non-CEO executives has a positive governance effect in reducing the executive agency costs of SOEs. We find that, the pay dispersion among non-CEO executives can effectively reduce the executive agency costs of SOEs, and the results are still robust after adopting the IVs and the differential compensation reform of SOEs in 2015 as the exogenous event to control the endogenous problem. Further, we document that reducing the supervision cost and improving the incentive efficiency of non-CEO executives are two potential mechanisms. Specifically, when there are more supervision costs and less incentives for non-CEO executives, the above positive governance effect are more salient.
This paper offers empirical evidence for the positive governance effect of the pay dispersion among non-CEO executives in SOEs, and makes up for the deficiency of negative effects such as high turnover and poor corporate performance caused by the pay dispersion among non-CEO executives. This paper not only enriches the literature on the pay dispersion among non-CEO executives, but also extends the related literature on the executive agency costs of SOEs. In addition, this paper has certain policy reference value for further deepening the reform of SOEs and improving the differential compensation distribution system of executives in SOEs. The promulgation of Guiding Opinions on Deepening the Reform of SOEs in 2015 means that, in the context of a new round of comprehensively deepening the compensation reform of SOEs, the incentive mechanism of executives in SOEs should not be limited to the level of executive compensation, but should consider whether the compensation distribution within the top management team is reasonable. Increasing the pay dispersion among the top management team is not only an efficiency issue, but also a fair issue. The underlying economic logic is that the pay dispersion among the top management team is an institutional arrangement for SOEs to reduce the agency costs under the specific governance environment in China. Only by truly realizing differentiated incentives for the top management team, can the enthusiasm of executives in SOEs be effectively activated, the agency efficiency be improved, and the high-quality development of SOEs be realized.