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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. Peter Klibanoff & Massimo Marinacci & Sujoy Mukerji, 2005. "A Smooth Model of Decision Making under Ambiguity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1849-1892, November.
  2. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Normal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 94-13, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-153, April.
  4. Dessein, Wouter, 2002. "Authority and Communication in Organizations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 811-38, October.
  5. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-00174553 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2007. "A Mechanism-Design Approach to Speculative Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 875-884, 05.
  7. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-87, May.
  8. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-00451982 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Mukerji, S., 1997. "Ambiguity aversion and incompleteness of contractual form," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9715, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  10. Gajdos, T. & Hayashi, T. & Tallon, J.-M. & Vergnaud, J.-C., 2008. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 140(1), pages 27-65, May.
  11. Ricardo Alonso & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "Optimal Delegation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 259-293.
  12. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 1-48, 02.
  13. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers, 2010. "A Model of Delegated Project Choice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(1), pages 213-244, 01.
  14. 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.
  15. 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).
  16. Strzalecki, Tomasz & Werner, Jan, 2011. "Efficient allocations under ambiguity," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(3), pages 1173-1194, May.
  17. Ghirardato, Paolo & Maccheroni, Fabio & Marinacci, Massimo, 2004. "Differentiating ambiguity and ambiguity attitude," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 133-173, October.
  18. 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.
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