Only 39 percent of big investors think the way U.S. companies reward top executives has helped improve corporate performance, and most believe that top managers have too much influence in setting their own pay, a new study has found.
Many corporate directors are also uneasy with how CEO pay is set, according to the study released Thursday. But, directors, who are charged with determining executive payouts, were more likely than investors to believe companies were on the right track in how they structure executive compensation.
Seventy-one percent of the investors thought executive pay plans were overly influenced by company managements, while 49 percent of directors shared that view, according to the report from consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide.
Sixty-five percent of directors thought executive pay models have helped make company performance better.
"While directors believe the system generally works, institutional investors generally feel the model's flaws run deeper and require more substantial changes," said Ira Kay, global director of compensation consulting at Watson Wyatt.
Executive pay -- always a hot-button issue with investors -- is in the spotlight as many companies prepare to release annual pay figures for their leaders in regulatory filings and get ready to hear from shareholders at annual meetings.
Many companies are facing ballot resolutions calling for shareholders to get an advisory vote on executive pay packages, a proposal that most boards of directors oppose.