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Why it Pays to Conceal: On the Optimal Timing of Acquiring Verifiable Information

  • Eberhard Feess
  • Michael Schieble
  • Markus Walzl

We consider optimal contracts when a principal has two sources to detect bad projects. The first one is an information technology without agency costs ($%IT_{P}$), whereas the second one is the expertise of an agent subject to moral hazard, adverse selection and limited liability ($IT_A$). First, we show that the principal does not necessarily benefit from access to additional information and thereby may prefer to ignore it. Second, we discuss different timings of information release, i.e. a \emph{disclosure} contract offered to the agent after the principal announced the result of $% IT_{P}$, and a \emph{concealment} contract where the agent exerts effort before $IT_{P}$ is checked. We find that oncealment is superior whenever the quality of $IT_{P}$ is sufficiently low. Then, $IT_{P}$ is almostworthless under a disclosure contract, while it can still be exploited to reduce the agent''s information rent under concealment. If the quality of $% IT_{P}$ improves, disclosure can be superior as it allows to adjust the agent''s effort to the up-dated expected quality of the project. However, even for a highly informative $IT_{P}$, concealment can be superior as itmitigates the adverse selection problem. Finally, we prove that the principal always benefits from checking $IT_P$ \textit{if} he chooses the optimal timing of information release. In particular, he may benefit only if he does not check $IT_P$ until the agent reported his findings.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1468-0475.2010.00506.x
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Article provided by Verein für Socialpolitik in its journal German Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 12 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 100-123

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Handle: RePEc:bla:germec:v:12:y:2011:i:1:p:100-123
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  1. Feess,Eberhard & Schieble,Michael & Markus,Walzl, 2004. "When should principals acquire verifiable information?," Research Memorandum 049, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  2. Anke S. Kessler & Christoph Lülfesmann & Patrick W. Schmitz, 2005. "Endogenous Punishments In Agency With Verifiable Ex Post Information ," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(4), pages 1207-1231, November.
  3. Gromb, Denis & Martimort, David, 2007. "Collusion and the organization of delegated expertise," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 137(1), pages 271-299, November.
  4. Eberhard Feess & Michael Schieble & Markus Walzl, 2011. "Why it Pays to Conceal: On the Optimal Timing of Acquiring Verifiable Information," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(1), pages 100-123, 02.
  5. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1990. "The Principal-Agent Relationship with an Informed Principal: The Case of Private Values," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(2), pages 379-409, March.
  6. Cremer, Jacques & McLean, Richard P, 1985. "Optimal Selling Strategies under Uncertainty for a Discriminating Monopolist When Demands Are Interdependent," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(2), pages 345-61, March.
  7. Gromb, Denis & Martimort, David, 2004. "The Organization of Delegated Expertise," CEPR Discussion Papers 4572, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Beaudry, Paul, 1994. "Why an Informed Principal May Leave Rents to an Agent," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 35(4), pages 821-32, November.
  9. Marco Ottaviani, 2000. "The Value of Public Information in Monopoly," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1479, Econometric Society.
  10. Lewis, Tracy R & Sappington, David E M, 1997. "Information Management in Incentive Problems," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 796-821, August.
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