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Flexible contracts

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Author Info

  • Piero Gottardi
  • Jean-Marc Tallon
  • Paolo Ghirardato

Abstract

This paper studies the costs and benefits of delegating decisions to superiorly informed agents relative to the use of rigid, non discretionary contracts. Delegation grants some flexibility in the choice of the action by the agent, but also requires the use of an appropriate incentive contract so as to realign his interests with those of the principal. The parties' understanding of the possible circumstances in which actions will have to be chosen and their attitude towards risk and uncertainty play then an important role in determining the costs of delegation. The main focus of the paper lies indeed in the analysis of these costs and the consequences for whether or not delegation is optimal. We determine and characterize the properties of the optimal flexible contract both when the parties have sharp probabilistic beliefs over the possible events in which the agent will have to act and when they only have a set of such beliefs. We show that the higher the agent's degree of risk aversion, the higher the agency costs for delegation and hence the less profitable is a flexible contract versus a rigid one. The agent's imprecision aversion in the case of multiple priors introduces another, additional agency costs; it again implies that the higher the degree of imprecision aversion the less profitable flexible contracts versus rigid ones. Even though, with multiple priors, the contract may be designed in such a way that principal and agent end up using 'different beliefs' and hence engage in speculative trade, this is never optimal, in contrast with the case where the parties have sharp heterogeneous beliefs.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Collegio Carlo Alberto in its series Carlo Alberto Notebooks with number 128.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:128

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Related research

Keywords: Delegation; Flexibility; Agency Costs; Multiple Priors; Imprecision Aversion;

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References

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  1. Sujoy Mukerji & Peter Klibanoff, 2002. "A Smooth Model of Decision,Making Under Ambiguity," Economics Series Working Papers 113, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2007. "Contracts as Reference Points," ESE Discussion Papers 170, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  3. Ghirardato, Paolo & Maccheroni, Fabio & Marinacci, Massimo, 2004. "Differentiating ambiguity and ambiguity attitude," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 133-173, October.
  4. Canice Prendergast, 2002. "The Tenuous Trade-off between Risk and Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 1071-1102, October.
  5. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-00451982 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Kfir Eliaz & Rani Spiegler, 2005. "A Mechanism-Design Approach to Speculative Trade," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000429, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Billot, A. & Chateauneuf, A. & Gilboa, I. & Tallon, J.-M., 1998. "Sharing Beliefs: Between Agreeing and Disagreeing," Papiers d'Economie Mathématique et Applications 98.30, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
  8. Thibault Gajdos & Takashi Hayashi & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2006. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques v06081, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
  9. Armstrong, Mark & Vickers, John, 2008. "A model of delegated project choice," MPRA Paper 8963, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. David Schmeidler, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7662, David K. Levine.
  11. Jewitt, Ian, 1987. "Risk Aversion and the Choice between Risky Prospects: The Preservation of Comparative Statics Results," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(1), pages 73-85, January.
  12. Mukerji, Sujoy, 1998. "Ambiguity Aversion and Incompleteness of Contractual Form," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1207-31, December.
  13. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-153, April.
  14. Strzalecki, Tomasz & Werner, Jan, 2011. "Efficient allocations under ambiguity," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(3), pages 1173-1194, May.
  15. Ricardo Alonso & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "Optimal Delegation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 259-293.
  16. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Scholarly Articles 4554125, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  17. Wouter Dessein, 2002. "Authority and Communication in Organizations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 811-838.
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