Board Survey: Trends In Executive Comp

Want to know how your board stacks up? Meridian's annual survey identified trends on a host of executive compensation and corporate governance topics. 

For the ninth straight year, Meridian Compensation Partners, LLC has conducted an extensive survey of 200 large cap companies (“Meridian 200”) to identify trends on a variety of executive compensation and corporate governance topics.

The survey provides current market practices, recent trends and key competitive benchmark data that should assist companies in the review of their executive compensation program designs and related corporate governance policies.

Highlights of Meridian’s 2019 Corporate Governance & Incentive Design Survey:

Annual Incentive Plan Practices

• The most prevalent performance metrics continue to be Operating Income, Revenue, Cash Flow and Earnings per Share (EPS).

• Individual performance modifiers are used in 25% of annual incentive plans, up slightly from 21% in 2018.

Long-Term Incentive Plan Practices

• 98% of Meridian 200 companies grant performance-based vehicles as part of their long-term incentive plans (most often PSUs), with cumulative performance measurement (typically 3 years) continuing to be most prevalent (90%).

• The average mix of LTI awards for CEOs is comprised of 60% performance-based full value shares/units; 20% service-vesting full value shares and 20% stock options, which has remained unchanged from 2018. However, other NEOs’ average LTI mix changed slightly year over year with more emphasis on performance-based full value shares/units (59%) and service-vesting full value shares (23%) and less emphasis on stock options (18%).

• Relative Total Shareholder Return (rTSR) continues to be the most prevalent (67%) metric in performance-based LTI plans; however, its use as an individual weighted measure decreased to 75% in 2019 from 82% in 2018, while its use as a payout modifier increased to 26% in 2019 from 22% in 2018.

Governance Practices

Declassified board. 92% of Meridian 200 companies elect directors annually (i.e., declassified board).

Board diversity. 87% of Meridian 200 companies directly address current board member diversity in their proxy filing, up from 79% in 2018, a trend we expect to continue.

Skill matrix. 72% of the Meridian 200 companies include a skill matrix in their proxy statement detailing outside directors’ key areas of expertise.

Mandatory retirement age. Prevalence of mandatory retirement age of 72 has decreased to 49% in 2019 from 57% in 2016. In contrast, prevalence of mandatory retirement age of 75 has increased to 35% in 2019 from 24% in 2016.

Board composition. 100% of Meridian 200 companies have at least one female board member; however, over one-half (58%) still continue to have a board makeup that is less than 30% female.

Independent Board Chair. 71% of Meridian 200 companies that separate the Board Chair (CoB) and CEO, elect an independent director as CoB.

Other Governance Topics

Clawback trigger. Ethical misconduct leading to a restatement represents the most prevalent clawback trigger (63%). However, some companies have moved to implement broader clawback provisions.

Pay ratio. Median CEO Pay Ratio among the Meridian 200 increased to 229:1 in 2019 from 208:1 in 2018.

Proxy summary. 78% of Meridian 200 companies include a proxy summary, up from 70% in 2018.

Shareholder outreach. 82% of Meridian 200 companies disclose shareholder outreach efforts, with nearly one-half (46%) providing specific detail on feedback received and/or actions taken.

Full survey results can be downloaded from Meridian’s website: www.meridiancp.com.