The Impact of Sarbanes–Oxley and Dodd–Frank on Executive Compensation

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Purpose: The recent economic and political focus on rising income inequality and the extent of government intervention into pay policies has renewed the interest in executive compensation. The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of changing regulatory landscapes on executive pay and its components.

Design/methodology/approach: This study examines a recent 23-year period divided into three distinct intervals separated by two major regulatory changes, the Sarbanes–Oxley Act (SOX) and the Dodd–Frank Act. Bonus, long-term and total compensation are separately modeled as a function of each regulatory change while controlling for firm size, performance and year. The model is estimated using panel data with firm fixed effects. An industry analysis is also conducted to examine sector variations.

Findings: Total compensation increased 29 percent following SOX and 21 percent following Dodd–Frank, above what can be explained by size, firm performance and time. Total compensation increased following both SOX and Dodd–Frank in all industries except for the financial services industry where total compensation was unchanged. Results are robust to using smaller windows around each regulation.

Research limitations/implications: This study does not seek to determine whether executive compensation is at an optimal level at any point in time. Instead, this study focuses only on the change in executive compensation after two specific regulations.