Incentive compensation for asset managers

Larry Ribstein —  28 September 2010

I’ve argued, e.g., in Rise of the Uncorporation, that a reason why the uncorporation beats the corporation for some types of firms is the high-powered incentives these firms offer their managers.  Sometimes the incentives may not be obvious because percentages, e.g., for “carried interest,” seem not to vary much across firms.  But that can be deceiving because it overlooks an important form of compensation – future fund flows to successful managers. 

Chung, Sensoy, Stern and Weisbach have some important evidence of this in their Pay for Performance from Future Fund Flows: The Case of Private Equity.  Here’s the abstract:

Lifetime incomes of private equity general partners are affected by their current funds’ performance through both carried interest profit sharing provisions, and also by the effect of the current fund’s performance on general partners’ abilities to raise capital for future funds. We present a learning-based framework for estimating the market-based pay for performance arising from future fundraising. For the typical first-time private equity fund, we estimate that implicit pay for performance from expected future fundraising is approximately the same order of magnitude as the explicit pay for performance general partners receive from carried interest in their current fund, implying that the performance-sensitive component of general partner revenue is about twice as large as commonly discussed. Consistent with the learning framework, we find that implicit pay for performance is stronger when managerial abilities are more scalable and weaker when current performance contains less new information about ability. Specifically, implicit pay for performance is stronger for buyout funds compared to venture capital funds, and declines in the sequence of a partnership’s funds. Our framework can be adapted to estimate implicit pay for performance in other asset management settings in which future fund flows and compensation depend on current performance.

With respect to other possible applications, consider the debate over the compensation of mutual fund managers, which I discuss in my recent article on Jones v. Harris

Larry Ribstein


Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law

One response to Incentive compensation for asset managers


    Well, you do have to reward managers for doing their jobs well.