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Executive remuneration and the limits of disclosure as an instrument of corporate governance

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Charles Harvey, Professor Mairi Maclean, Dr Mike Price



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Why does disclosure continue to be seen as a panacea for failings in corporate governance, despite mounting evidence that it is a weak instrument of control? Through a micro-historical study of the constitution and deliberations of the Greenbury committee, which placed executive remuneration disclosure at the heart of UK corporate governance, we demonstrate how disclosure was discursively constructed by elite business leaders as a primary requirement of accountability of agents to owners. Our research, conducted twenty years after the publication of the Greenbury recommendations in 1995, is based on oral history interviews with surviving members of the committee and its professional advisers, who came to lament that their efforts perversely had helped escalate rather than moderate top executive pay. We argue that disclosure is a poor surrogate for real engagement by owners in corporate governance, and propose four general conditions that, if satisfied, might lead to increased accountability.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Harvey C, Maclean M, Price M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Perspectives on Accounting

Year: 2020

Volume: 69

Online publication date: 10/07/2019

Acceptance date: 19/06/2019

Date deposited: 19/06/2019

ISSN (print): 1045-2354

ISSN (electronic): 1095-9955

Publisher: Academic Press


DOI: 10.1016/


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