We show that companies that use search firms to find board members pay their CEOs significantly higher salaries and significantly higher total compensations. Further, companies with search firm-identified independent directors are significantly less likely to fire their CEOs following negative performance. In addition, companies with search firm-identified independent directors are significantly more likely to engage in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and see abnormally low returns from this M&A activity. We instrument the endogenous choice of using an executive search through the varying geographic distance of companies to executive search firms. Using this instrumental variable framework, we show search firm-identified independent directors’ negative impact on firm performance, consistent with firm behavior and governance consequences we document.