Existing rules in Europe require, and proposed rules in the U.S. would require, companies and financial institutions to have in place effective clawback policies. Under such policies, employers have the ability to recover compensation paid to employees when certain events occur or information comes to light that could have an adverse effect on the employer. The aim, of course, is to create a direct link between reward and conduct so as to promote good corporate behavior and ensure effective risk management.
Clawback provisions have been around for a number of years and they are now a fairly well-known feature in a variety of different bonus and equity incentive programs. They often complement other measures that employers can deploy to address adverse events and circumstances, the most common of which is the ability to forfeit or downward adjust unvested compensation. With executive scrutiny and accountability on the rise, the significance of these policies and their effectiveness will undoubtedly be put to the test. This article looks briefly at the legal and practical challenges companies face at each stage of a clawback policy – from design and implementation to operation and enforcement.