3 Reasons to Separate CEO and Chair Positions

All public corporations in the United States are required to have a board of directors that oversees corporate activities and protects the interests of shareholders. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether it is beneficial to separate the roles of the chief executive officer (CEO) and the chair of the board. This article presents three reasons why separating these positions can strengthen the overall integrity of a company.

1. Executive Compensation

  • The board of directors decides on executive pay, including the CEO’s compensation.
  • When the CEO also serves as the chair of the board, a conflict of interest arises, as the CEO is essentially voting on their own compensation.
  • This conflict can compromise the fairness and transparency of the executive pay decision-making process.
  • Separating the CEO and chair positions ensures that executive compensation is determined by an independent board, free from potential self-interest and conflicts.

2. Corporate Governance

  • The board’s main role is to monitor the company’s operations and ensure they align with the company’s mandate and shareholder wishes.
  • The CEO is responsible for managing the company’s operations.
  • When the CEO holds both the CEO and chair positions, the board may struggle to effectively monitor the CEO’s actions and decisions.
  • Separating the positions allows for an independent chair to oversee the CEO’s performance, identify areas where the company may be deviating from its mandate, and implement corrective measures when necessary.
  • A strong and independent board is crucial for maintaining good corporate governance and ensuring the company’s long-term success.

3. Audit Committee Independence

  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 introduced stricter regulations for corporate oversight, including the requirement for the audit committee to consist of external board members.
  • The audit committee plays a vital role in monitoring corporate oversight and ensuring financial transparency.
  • Having the CEO serve as the chair of the board can limit the effectiveness of the audit committee.
  • With the CEO in a dual role, the independence of the committee may be compromised, making it challenging for the committee to act impartially.
  • Separating the CEO and chair positions allows for a fully independent audit committee, enhancing its ability to perform its oversight responsibilities effectively.
  • This independence is particularly important in facilitating whistleblower reports, as employees and other individuals need to feel confident reporting fraud and abuse directly to the audit committee without fear of reprisal.

In conclusion, separating the CEO and chair positions in public corporations offers several advantages, including fairer executive compensation decisions, stronger corporate governance, and more effective audit committee oversight. These measures can contribute to the overall integrity and success of the company, ensuring that it operates in the best interests of its shareholders and stakeholders.

Further Resources

Here is a comprehensive list of resources that offer authoritative information and valuable insights on the topic of separating CEO and chair positions:

Websites and Online Resources:

  1. Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance: This forum provides a platform for academics, practitioners, and policymakers to share their perspectives on corporate governance issues. It covers various topics related to board structures and leadership roles. Visit website
  2. National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD): NACD is a nonprofit membership organization focused on promoting boardroom excellence. Their website offers resources, articles, and publications related to effective board governance practices, including the separation of CEO and chair roles. Visit website


  1. “Inside the Boardroom: How Boards Really Work and the Coming Revolution in Corporate Governance” by Richard Leblanc: This book explores the dynamics and functioning of corporate boards, including the role of the CEO and chair positions. It provides insights into the benefits of separating these roles for effective governance. Buy on Amazon
  2. “The Activist Director: Lessons from the Boardroom and the Future of the Corporation” by Ira M. Millstein: This book delves into the evolving role of directors in modern corporations, discussing the separation of CEO and chair positions as a means to enhance board effectiveness and accountability. Buy on Amazon

Academic Journals and Research Papers:

  1. “Separation of CEO and Chair Roles: Implications for Board Independence and CEO Accountability” by Ronald W. Masulis and Shawn Mobbs (The Journal of Finance): This research paper examines the impact of separating CEO and chair roles on board independence and CEO accountability. It provides empirical evidence and insights into the benefits of separation. Read paper
  2. “CEO Duality: How the Combination of CEO and Chair Roles Affects Firm Performance” by Julian Franks and Colin Mayer (Journal of Economics & Management Strategy): This study investigates the relationship between CEO duality and firm performance, highlighting the potential drawbacks of having a combined CEO and chair role. Read paper

Reports and Studies:

  1. “Separating the Roles of CEO and Chair: Considerations for Corporate Boards” (Deloitte): This report by Deloitte explores the benefits and challenges of separating CEO and chair positions. It provides insights and recommendations for corporate boards considering this structural change. Read report
  2. “CEO Succession Practices: 2019 Edition” (The Conference Board): This report examines CEO succession practices among global companies. It discusses the prevalence of separating CEO and chair roles in different regions and industries, along with the associated implications. Read report

Professional Organizations and Associations:

  1. Institute of Directors (IOD): IOD is an organization dedicated to promoting excellence in corporate governance. They offer resources, publications, and events related to board leadership, including discussions on separating CEO and chair roles. Visit website
  2. Corporate Governance Association of Turkey (TKYD): TKYD is an association focused on improving corporate governance practices in Turkey. Their website provides valuable insights into board structures and the separation of CEO and chair positions. Visit website

These resources will provide readers with authoritative information and diverse perspectives on the topic, allowing for a deeper understanding of the importance and implications of separating CEO and chair positions.