Principal-agent Incentives, Excess Caution, and Market Inefficiency: Evidence From Utility Regulation
AbstractRegulators and firms often use incentive schemes to attract skillful agents and to induce them to put forth effort in pursuit of the principals' goals. Incentive schemes that reward skill and effort, however, may also punish agents for adverse outcomes beyond their control. As a result, such schemes may induce inefficient behavior, as agents try to avoid actions that might make it easier to directly associate a bad outcome with their decisions. In this paper, we study how such caution on the part of individual agents may lead to inefficient market outcomes, focusing on the context of natural gas procurement by regulated public utilities. We posit that a regulated natural gas distribution company may, due to regulatory incentives, engage in excessively cautious behavior by foregoing surplus-increasing gas trades that could be seen ex post as having caused supply curtailments to its customers. We derive testable implications of such behavior and show that the theory is supported empirically in ways that cannot be explained by conventional price risk aversion or other explanations. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the reduction in efficient trade caused by the regulatory mechanism is most severe during periods of relatively high demand and low supply, when the benefits of trade would be greatest.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13679.
Date of creation: Dec 2007
Date of revision:
Note: EEE IO
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
- L95 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Gas Utilities; Pipelines; Water Utilities
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2008-01-05 (All new papers)
- NEP-ENE-2008-01-05 (Energy Economics)
- NEP-REG-2008-01-05 (Regulation)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Deaton, A. & Laroque, G., 1989.
"On The Behavior Of Commodity Prices,"
145, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
- Cremer, Helmuth & Gasmi, Farid & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 2003. "Access to Pipelines in Competitive Gas Markets," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 5-33, July.
- Deaton, A. & Laroque, G., 1996.
"Competitive storage and commodity price dynamics,"
Open Access publications from University College London
http://discovery.ucl.ac.u, University College London.
- Lyon, Thomas P, 1992. "Regulation with "20-20 Hindsight": Least-Cost Rules and Variable Costs," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 277-89, September.
- Carter, Colin A & Rausser, Gordon C & Schmitz, Andrew, 1983.
"Efficient Asset Portfolios and the Theory of Normal Backwardation,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 319-31, April.
- Carter, Colin A. & Rausser, Gordon C. & Schmitz, Andrew, 1982. "Efficient asset portfolios and the theory of normal backwardation," CUDARE Working Paper Series 133R, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy.
- Carter, Colin A. & Rausser, Gordon C. & Schmitz, Andrew, 1982. "Efficient asset portfolios and the theory of normal backwardation," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt59c8m4x6, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
- Roy Bailey and Marcus Chambers, .
"A Theory of Commodity Price Fluctuations,"
Economics Discussion Papers
432, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
- Rick Harbaugh, 2005. "Prospect Theory or Skill Signaling?," Working Papers 2005-06, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
- Dennis W. Carlton, 1987.
"The Rigidity of Prices,"
NBER Working Papers
1813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 2002.
"Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models,"
Journal of Business & Economic Statistics,
American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 88-97, January.
- Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-79, October.
- Holmstrom, Bengt, 1999.
"Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 169-82, January.
- Bengt Holmstrom, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," NBER Working Papers 6875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Palley, Thomas I., 1995. "Safety in numbers: A model of managerial herd behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 443-450, December.
- David Finnoff & Curtis Cramer & Sherrill Shaffer, 2004. "The Financial and Operational Impacts of FERC Order 636 on the Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Industry," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 243-270, 05.
- Carlton, Dennis W, 1979. "Contracts, Price Rigidity, and Market Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 1034-62, October.
- Scharfstein, David. & Stein, Jeremy C., 1988.
"Herd behavior and investment,"
WP 2062-88., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
- Adam Brandenburger & Ben Polak, 1996. "When Managers Cover Their Posteriors: Making the Decisions the Market Wants to See," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(3), pages 523-541, Autumn.
- Dusak, Katherine, 1973. "Futures Trading and Investor Returns: An Investigation of Commodity Market Risk Premiums," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(6), pages 1387-1406, Nov.-Dec..
- Severin Borenstein & Lucas W. Davis, 2012.
"The Equity and Efficiency of Two-Part Tariffs in U.S. Natural Gas Markets,"
Journal of Law and Economics,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 75 - 128.
- Severin Borenstein & Lucas W. Davis, 2010. "The Equity and Efficiency of Two-Part Tariffs in U.S. Natural Gas Markets," NBER Working Papers 16653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.