“This is not a year for a lot of gobbledygook and lawyer-talk,” says Alan Johnson, managing partner at Johnson Associates, a compensation consulting firm that mainly works with financial services companies. “This would be a year for straightforwardness. They may disagree [about compensation decisions], but they won’t think you were hiding something or weren’t straightforward about what you were doing.”

Johnson says that while most of his clients have been largely insulated from the financial impact of the pandemic, he has emphasized with clients that it’s not the year to be “exaggerated” in pay for executives. Outside financial services, he says, it may be more complicated.

“I think firms need to be very sensitive to the optics of compensation. If you’ve laid off thousands of employees or had deaths in your workforce, to exaggerate executive pay would be [viewed negatively] this year,” he says.

Agenda / February 1, 2021