Regulation and Inflation

Here’s one example of how regulation drives inflation, in the milieu of corporate CEO compensation. Charles Murray, at AEIdeas, provides it.

On multiple occasions the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] amended its rules to increase the disclosure of compensation data and to force boards to explain their rationale for the amounts. That, combined with the influence of the arbiters of corporate governance, created an inviolable requirement for compensation committees to be advised by consultants. A perfect recipe for increasing compensation.


In 70’s and even the 80’s the compensation of the CEO seemed to be mostly a matter arrived at between the board and the CEO that resulted from discussions and negotiations and the public disclosure was a matter of a few pages. But there was then nothing like the pressure to conform to best practices backed up by the reliance upon the advice of consultants and the concomitant availability of market data that there is today.

You can guess how it works. No board that isn’t about to fire its CEO really wants to admit that their CEO is a less-than-average performer by paying him or her less than average. But if the lowest-paid CEO’s are always being brought up to the average, then the average increases every year. Then for the high performers to be paid well, their compensation needs to be increased, but that raises the average…and so on every year. And the compensation committee and the board always have this market data before them, the recommendations of their consultants and “best practices” to adhere to. These influences are not easily resisted. You see the result.

It’s hard to believe the enormously intelligent regulators didn’t see this coming from the jump. The apparent abuse—that obscene CEO compensation—seems just another excuse to justify their jobs.

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