Although it is well understood that product market competition acts as a disciplining mechanism that reduces inefficiencies, our understanding of the implications for firms’ incentive design choices is still limited. We use a comprehensive new measure of competition and examine its effect on four major choices: CEO equity portfolio incentives, annual bonus plan incentives, choice of performance measures, and difficulty of financial performance targets. We find that competition reduces firm profits and total CEO compensation, including equity grants, which then also weakens portfolio incentives. Firms respond by adjusting annual bonus plans to restore incentives. Specifically, we find that competition goes together with stronger bonus plan incentives, more challenging annual performance targets, and a greater emphasis on long-term performance measures. Finally, we show that competition increases performance relative to annual bonus targets, which we interpret as evidence that CEOs work harder but get paid less in highly competitive environments.

Data Availability: Data are available from the public sources cited in the text.

JEL Classifications: M41; M52.

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