February 28, 2021


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
Partner [email protected] 847-636-8919
E. Whitney Cook
[email protected] 212-921-9350


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:

  • Annual and long-term incentive design changes
  • Compensation actions for chief executive officers (CEOs), executives, boards of directors and employees
  • 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 February 28, 2021, CAP had identified actions taken by 879 companies in these indices, with many companies taking multiple actions in response to COVID-19. (Company details, including over 650 additional U.S. and non-U.S. companies, are available on our COVID-19 Resource Center)

Key takeaways of actions to date include:

  • Nearly 60 percent S&P 1500 companies have announced compensation and human capital actions in response to COVID-19
  • All auto companies have taken COVID-related human capital actions. The retailing and consumer services industries also are nearing 100 percent prevalence of COVID-19 actions
  • Initial actions focused on conserving cash through executive salary cuts. Over the summer, pay actions began to focus on annual and long-term incentives
  • Most companies that reported COVID 19-related pay actions adjusted their annual incentive plan or both their annual and long-term incentive plans
    • o CAP’s reports on incentive actions by June and September fiscal-year-end companies provide an early look at pay decisions being made by compensation committees across corporate
  • CEO and executive pay cuts were made by one in four firms, while board pay cuts were made by about one in five. Large- and mid-cap companies have been 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
  • The prevalence of adverse broad-based employment actions spans the three indices, with furloughs being most common
  • 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: February 19, 2021

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

Louisa Heywood and Zaina Jabri provided research assistance for this report.

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