August 31, 2020


Compensation and Human Capital Corporate Actions in Response to COVID-19




Melissa Burek
Founding Partner [email protected] 212-921-9354
Eric Hosken
Partner [email protected] 212-921-9363
Bonnie Schindler
Principal [email protected] 847-636-8919
Whitney Cook
Senior Analyst [email protected] 646-486-9748


Compensation Advisory Partners (CAP) is monitoring corporate public announcements for the S&P 500 (large cap), S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 to compile a database of pay actions taken in response to the COVID 19 pandemic:

  • Compensation actions for chief executive officers (CEOs), executives, boards of directors and employees
  • Annual and long-term incentive design changes
  • Workforce reductions and expansions
  • Changes in dividend policy and share buybacks (not covered in depth in this document)

These indices were selected because 1) they allow for size comparisons and 2) they compose the S&P Composite 1500 index, which covers approximately 90 percent of the market capitalization of U.S. public companies.

As of August 31, 2020, CAP had identified actions taken by 781 companies in these indices, with many companies taking multiple actions in response to COVID-19. (Company details, including over 600 additional U.S. and non-U.S. companies, are available on our COVID-19 Resource Center)

Key takeaways of actions to date include:

  • S&P Composite 1500 corporate actions spiked in late March, remained steady in April, and began to slow in mid-May.
  • Six months into the pandemic, companies are announcing amendments to prior salary actions, and changing their annual and long-incentive plan designs.
  • Over half of the S&P 500 (large cap) companies, and nearly 50% of mid- and small-cap companies have announced compensation and human capital actions in response to the pandemic.
  • CEO pay cuts were made by about one in four firms, while executive and board pay cuts were made by one in five. Large- and mid-cap companies have been slightly less likely to cut board pay.
    • The median salary cut for CEOs is 50% in the S&P 500 (large cap) and S&P MidCap 400, and 30% in the S&P SmallCap 600. Other executive salary cuts are made on a graduated scale, with typical cuts at 20% to 25%.
    • S&P 500 (large cap) and S&P MidCap 400 companies cut director cash retainers by a median of 50%. S&P SmallCap 600 firms applied a lower 30% cut to retainers. The duration of cuts is typically not defined.
  • CEO salary cuts are often seen in conjunction with other adverse corporate actions, such as executive salary cuts, cuts in cash retainers paid to the board of directors, and reductions in pay and headcount for the broader employee population. Across the three indices, one in four firms took a negative broad-based employment action.
  • Positive broad-based employment actions are more likely to be taken by large firms.

Users can view additional visualizations of key trends across industry groups and action types below.

Data effective: August 31, 2020
Instructions to use this tool:
Company Type, Index, and Industry Group Filters

  • Select the desired company type, S&P index, and industry group scope using the menus
  • Charts below will reflect data only for companies in the selected scopes
  • Select multiple options by holding down the CTRL key
  • Scroll down in the Industry Group menu to see all available options


  • First chart shows the number of cumulative company actions over time, broken down by sector
  • Second chart shows the number of company actions per day, broken down by action type
  • Click on an action type in the legend on the left to see data only for the selected action types
  • Select multiple action types by holding down the CTRL key
  • Click the area below the legend to reset to all action types

For more information about our services, please contact us.