Posts Tagged ‘Pollock’
Friday, February 26th, 2010
Over the past year, we have discussed everything from the housing industry to Starbucks coffee, thanks to insights from our expert faculty at Smeal. Thank you for your support and readership. We look forward to the year ahead and hope we continue facilitating discussion and producing content of interest to you.
Below is a recap of some of our most viewed posts, addressing several key issues that made the past year a challenging one for business.
Several car companies took a hard hit as the economy tanked and stock prices dropped, forcing them to close plants, layoff workers, and turn to the government for support. In early June, President Obama announced that General Motors filed for bankruptcy and gave Washington a 60 percent stake in the company. Smeal’s Terrence Guay provided a detailed analysis of GM’s history, highlighting the many places they went wrong, in his post, “What Happened to GM?”
The housing industry is slowly on its way to recovery after a volatile year. An unstable mortgage market and a suffering real estate market brought about decreased lending and mortgage defaults. In September, Smeal’s Brent Ambrose addressed the transformation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in his post, “Breaking Up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” In addition, Smeal’s Austin Jaffe outlined ten principles to help navigate the new real estate economy in his October post.
With the Obama administration came the appointment of various czars. One that made headlines was Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar, proving that executive compensation was a hot topic in 2009 and Smeal’s Don Hambrick, Ed Ketz, and Tim Pollock had much to say about it. In May, Hambrick noted that an increase in CEO’s stock offerings could potentially lead to more risk-taking by the CEO. In his study, he suggests a better way to compensate CEOs. In addition, Ketz recommends giving shareholders more influence over corporate boards in his July post. Pollock goes as far as to say that it is going to take a cultural shift, not a pay czar, to rein in executive compensation.
Retailers had to adjust their strategies given the decrease in consumer confidence and lack of spending. In July, handbag retailer Coach, Inc. aimed to lower prices, while maintaining its luxury image. Smeal’s Lisa Bolton offered various strategies for marketers to position their luxury brands in a weakening economy. Starbucks went through the same dilemma as they adjusted pricing to portray the image of being both an affordable and premium brand. Smeal’s Jennifer Chang Coupland thought this might be a rather risky approach and outlined the reasons why in her August post.
Tags: Ambrose, Coach, Coupland, Executive Compensation, GM, Guay, Hambrick, Housing, Jaffe, Ketz, L. Bolton, Management, Marketing, Pay Czar, Pollock, Real Estate, Smeal, Starbucks
Posted in News | 2 Comments
Thursday, January 7th, 2010
After addressing a rough year for IPOs in 2009, Bloomberg BusinessWeek recently discussed the more positive outlook for 2010, although some skeptics aren’t as optimistic. In the article, Deepak Kamra, a partner at Canaan Partners, says the degree to which investors’ engage in risky behavior depends on the overall performance of the stock market. “Tell me how the Nasdaq does and I’ll tell you how many IPOs,” he says.
Smeal’s Tim Pollock tends to agree with Kamra, adding that IPOs are very risky and rely heavily on investor optimism and their willingness to take risks.
More from Pollock:
If investors, particularly institutional investors who buy about 70 percent of all IPO shares issued, are being cautious and pessimistic about the market, then there aren’t going to be a lot of IPOs. Although, I do think there is a pent up supply available.
I’m sure some venture capitalists (VCs) are getting nervous if the funds they invested into a company are coming to a close and they can’t liquidate their positions. (VCs raise capital for a specific fund that typically has a ten-year life. At the of ten years, the fund is liquidated and all the principle and any gains are returned to the investors in the fund.)
If the stock market stays okay, then we will see some of the companies that have been profitable for a while go public. If those companies do all right, then younger companies that may be less profitable are likely to have the opportunity to go public as investors’ appetites for IPOs increase.
I don’t know that companies like Facebook and Twitter are profitable yet. If they are, they could probably go public and do okay, although not as well as if it were a hotter market. If they aren’t profitable at this point, they may want to wait until they can show some profits. They may still be able to go public simply because of their name recognition and celebrity, but once they do, if they aren’t making money, it will be a bumpy ride. Their stars may start to fade. This doesn’t mean they won’t survive, but the media and other folks may become more critical of them and the flaws in their business models.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
The Wall Street Journal reports that “the Obama administration’s pay czar is planning to clamp down on compensation at firms receiving large sums of government aid by cutting annual cash salaries for many of the top employees under his authority.”
However, according to Smeal’s Tim Pollock, it’s going to take a cultural shift, not a government edict, to really rein in exorbitant CEO salaries:
The problems with executive compensation can’t be solved with regulation, or by a pay czar, because they are deeply embedded in the culture of Wall Street, in the case of financial services, and in the culture and belief systems of the executive suite and boardroom, more generally.
CEOs and senior executives, while always well compensated, were not always as lavishly compensated as they are today. What we see now largely began in the 80s when stock options began to be used more widely as a consequence of proscriptions derived from the logic of agency theory, which argues that executives will act in a risk averse and self-interested manner unless provided with incentives to behave otherwise.
The problems with stock options are that, unlike actual stock, which can go down in value as well as up, stock options can’t go below zero in value. And until recently they received favored accounting treatments that essentially made them a “free good”. As a consequence of the former problem, executives really face no downside risk from stock options. Thus, rather than take reasonable risks, they are more likely to take excessive risks because they bear no real costs from failure; they just might not (in theory) make any gains. However, even this rarely comes to pass, because boards swoop in to reprice the options, or to give the executives new grants at lower exercise prices, in order to keep them sufficiently “motivated.”
This problem was exacerbated by the Clinton administration’s well-meaning but disastrous attempt to limit executive pay by limiting its tax deductibility unless it was tied to firm performance, which meant more stock options. Further, the favored-accounting treatment options received made them a cheap form of compensation, so it was easy for boards to load CEOs up with huge option grants that turned into phenomenal amounts of compensation in the 1990s’ bull market, which, by the way, raised all boats, even those of marginal and incompetent CEOs. Because it was easier to ascertain the value of an executive’s compensation package due to the new reporting requirements implemented in 1993, CEO pay packages could be compared to each other, and the executive pay arms race was off and running.
Today, the use of stock options, and the phenomenal levels of pay that CEOs, investment bankers, and traders receive, have become taken-for-granted parts of the corporate landscape. Restricting or modifying the pay of a few executives and firms by the government will not lead to a sustained change in pay practices, and could lead to the poaching of the competent individuals left at the troubled firms by firms not bound by these restrictions. We’ve already seen that it’s business as usual again at most Wall Street firms.
Until executives feel real pressure from shareholders, and each other, to rein in pay, not much is going to change, I’m afraid. This isn’t going to happen as long as the mantra of “maximize shareholder value” (And what does this even mean? Over what time frame? In what way? If firms compete successfully in delivering the best products and services, won’t this happen anyway?) continues to drive decision making.
Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
The Academy of Management’s Entrepreneurship Division has selected a paper by Smeal’s Tim Pollock as the recipient of its 2009 IDEA Award in the Thought Leader category, which is representative of the best published papers in entrepreneurship in 2008. Pollock and his co-authors Violina Rindova of the University of Texas and Patrick Maggitti of Villanova University will accept the award in August at the 2009 meeting of the Academy of Management, the leading professional organization for scholars in the field of management and organization.
Their paper, “Market Watch: Information and Availability Cascades among the Media and Investors in the U.S. IPO Market,” is available online.
Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
“The Obama administration plans to require banks and corporations that have received two rounds of federal bailouts to submit any major executive pay changes for approval by a new federal official who will monitor compensation,” according to The New York Times. Kenneth Feinberg, supervisor over the payouts to the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will enforce these compensation restrictions as the government’s new pay czar.
Smeal’s Tim Pollock, who studies executive compensation, is skeptical of the plan, stating the new position will create more problems than solutions.
More from Pollock:
Executive pay is out of control and it can’t be fixed by government regulation. Whenever the government tries to regulate compensation, compensation consultants always find a way around the regulations. In the early ‘90s, the Clinton administration tried to rein in executive compensation by limiting the tax deductibility of executive compensation in excess of $1 million, unless it was tied to company performance. This led to the increased use of stock options and instead of limiting executive pay, their pay skyrocketed over the ensuing 15 years and led to some of the risk-taking we see today.
Another problem arises with the current regulations only applying to companies that have received funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). If they are limited in what they can pay and their competitors are not, it will create an uneven playing field, making it even more difficult for these firms to recover.
It is also important to keep in mind that when talking about the financial services industry, the compensation of the traders and other mid-level employees is just as great an issue. They are the ones making the trades and engaging in excessive risk-taking that hasn’t gotten the financial services industry into trouble.
Nothing is going to change as long as 1) traders and mid-level employees are rewarded for taking risks that pay off and don’t suffer any consequences for the risks that don’t, 2) their compensation and the compensation of executives are tied to short-term performance measures, 3) analysts, directors, and others continue to focus excessively on short-term performance metrics (quarterly earnings) and over react to hitting or missing their expected earnings, and 4) most of the players involved have little or no understanding of how the financial instruments they have created work.
There has to be a massive culture shift on Wall Street that takes a longer term perspective on rewarding performance and making the traders and decision-makers responsible for failures as well as successes. The well-being of the system as a whole must be taken into account and not just the narrow self-interest of the traders, executives, and their firms.