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Risk aversion, performance pay, and the principal-agent problem

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  • Joseph G. Haubrich

Abstract

This paper calculates numerical solutions to the principal-agent problem and compares the results to the stylized facts of CEO compensation. The numerical predictions come from parameterizing the models of Grossman and Hart and of Holmstrom and Milgrom. While the correct incentives for a CEO can greatly enhance a firm's performance, providing such incentives need not be expensive. For many parameter values, CEO compensation need only increase by about $10 for every $1,000 of additional shareholder value; for some values, the amount is 0.003 cents. The paper thus answers two challenges posed by Jensen: that principal-agent theory does not yield quantitative predictions, and that CEO compensation is insufficiently sensitive to firm performance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in its series Working Paper with number 9118.

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Date of creation: 1991
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:9118

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Keywords: Executives - Salaries;

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  1. Baker, George P & Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1988. " Compensation and Incentives: Practice vs. Theory," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 593-616, July.
  2. Shmuel Kandel & Robert F. Stambaugh, 1991. "Asset Returns and Intertemporal Preferences," NBER Working Papers 3633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Sappington, David, 1983. "Limited liability contracts between principal and agent," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-21, February.
  4. Caballero, R.J., 1988. "Consumption Puzzles And Precautionary Savings," Discussion Papers 1988_05, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  5. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
  6. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  7. Sheshinski, Eytan, 1989. "Note on the shape of the optimum income tax schedule," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 201-215, November.
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