A theory of optimal deadlines
This paper sets forth a model of contracting for delivery in an environment with time to build and adverse selection. The optimal contract is derived and characterized and it takes the form of a deadline contract. Such a contract stipulates a deadline for delivery for each possible type of agent efficiency. The optimal contract induces inefficient delay by using delivery time as a screening device. Furthermore, rents are decreasing in the agent’s efficiency. In meeting the deadline, the agent’s effort is strictly increasing over time, due to discounting. It is shown that increasing the project’s gross value decreases delivery time, while the scale or difficulty of the project decreases it. Last, it is shown that the agent’s rents are increasing in both project difficulty and gross project value.
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