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Estimation Risk and Incentive Contracts for Portfolio Managers


  • Susan I. Cohen

    (College of Commerce, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois 61820)

  • Laura T. Starks

    (Department of Finance, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712)


The fiduciary relationship between portfolio managers and the investors they represent may be viewed as a principal-agent relationship, and therefore we have used the methodology from the agency literature in economics and finance to study the impact of existing compensation arrangements on the conflicts of interest between these two groups. In this paper we employ the assumptions of the Capital Asset Pricing Model and of estimation risk concerning beta to develop a model in which portfolio managers can, through effort, choose the parameters of the beta distribution. Our model entails moral hazard because the investor cannot observe the manager's action. Given certain utility functions we show that the presence of estimation risk leads the manager to choose a lower beta portfolio than otherwise and that no first best optimal contract exists. We also show that managerial divergent behavior is related to the divergence in risk preferences between the manager and the investor. By making slightly more stringent assumptions about preferences, we show that there exist some conditions under which the manager will provide more effort but also a riskier portfolio than the investor prefers. Finally we show that the investor will prefer a manager who is less risk averse than the investor.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan I. Cohen & Laura T. Starks, 1988. "Estimation Risk and Incentive Contracts for Portfolio Managers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 34(9), pages 1067-1079, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:34:y:1988:i:9:p:1067-1079
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.34.9.1067

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    Cited by:

    1. Golec, Joseph H., 1996. "The effects of mutual fund managers' characteristics on their portfolio performance, risk and fees," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 133-147.
    2. Palomino, Frederic & Sadrieh, Abdolkarim, 2011. "Overconfidence and delegated portfolio management," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 159-177, April.
    3. Najand, Mohammad & Prather, Larry J., 1999. "The risk level discriminatory power of mutual fund investment objectives: Additional evidence," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 307-328, August.
    4. Palomino, Frederic & Prat, Andrea, 2003. "Risk Taking and Optimal Contracts for Money Managers," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(1), pages 113-137, Spring.
    5. Danilo Drago & Valter Lazzari & Marco Navone, 2010. "Mutual Fund Incentive Fees: Determinants and Effects," Financial Management, Financial Management Association International, vol. 39(1), pages 365-392, March.
    6. T. S. Raghu & P. K. Sen & H. R. Rao, 2003. "Relative Performance of Incentive Mechanisms: Computational Modeling and Simulation of Delegated Investment Decisions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(2), pages 160-178, February.
    7. Wang, Jian & Sheng, Jiliang & Yang, Jun, 2013. "Optimism bias and incentive contracts in portfolio delegation," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 493-499.
    8. Juan-Pedro Gómez & Tridib Sharma, 2006. "Portfolio delegation under short-selling constraints," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 28(1), pages 173-196, May.
    9. Eichberger, Jurgen & Grant, Simon & King, Stephen P., 1999. "On relative performance contracts and fund manager's incentives," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 135-161, January.
    10. Ching-Chang Wang & Jerry Yu, 2018. "The holdings markup behavior of mutual funds: evidence from an emerging market," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 393-414, February.
    11. Golec, Joseph & Starks, Laura, 2004. "Performance fee contract change and mutual fund risk," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 93-118, July.

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    risk; portfolios; incentives; estimation risk;


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