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Agency Problems in Law Enforcement: Theory and Application to the U.S. Coast Guard

Author

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  • Kishore Gawande

    () (George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-4220)

  • Alok K. Bohara

    () (Department of Economics, MSC05 3060, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131)

Abstract

We study two issues in the enforcement of public law. The first is whether the system of inspections and penalties set by the regulator is effective. The second is whether a better system of inspections and penalties can be designed, given the institutional constraints under which the regulator must function. We study these issues in the context of oil spill prevention activities of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the agency entrusted with the enforcement of maritime pollution laws. A theoretically optimal contract that mixes penalties based on the amount of pollution ex post with penalties based on the extent of noncompliance ex ante is derived. The effectiveness of USCG inspections and penalties in reducing oil spills is then econometrically studied using microlevel data on a panel of U.S. flag tank vessels. Whether the optimal penalty can potentially improve the effectiveness of compliance inspections in reducing oil spills is examined in the light of the empirical results and recent developments in the economics and public management literature on effective incentive contracting. Among our findings is the potential for combining unilateral incentive-based methods with cooperative methods based on reciprocity to solve the complex problem of law enforcement.

Suggested Citation

  • Kishore Gawande & Alok K. Bohara, 2005. "Agency Problems in Law Enforcement: Theory and Application to the U.S. Coast Guard," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(11), pages 1593-1609, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:51:y:2005:i:11:p:1593-1609
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cohen, Mark A, 1987. "Optimal Enforcement Strategy to Prevent Oil Spills: An Application of a Principal-Agent Model with Moral Hazard," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 23-51, April.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. George Baker, 2000. "The Use of Performance Measures in Incentive Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 415-420, May.
    4. Canice Prendergast, 2000. "What Trade-Off of Risk and Incentives?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 421-425, May.
    5. maurice moffett & alok k. bohara & kishore gawande, 2005. "Governance and Performance: Theory-Based Evidence from US Coast Guard Inspections," Public Economics 0505002, EconWPA.
    6. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
    7. Ross, Stephen A, 1973. "The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal's Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 134-139, May.
    8. Eric Helland, 1998. "The Enforcement Of Pollution Control Laws: Inspections, Violations, And Self-Reporting," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 141-153, February.
    9. Steven Shavell, 1979. "Risk Sharing and Incentives in the Principal and Agent Relationship," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 55-73, Spring.
    10. George J. Stigler, 1974. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 55-67 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. James A. Mirrlees, 1976. "The Optimal Structure of Incentives and Authority Within an Organization," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 7(1), pages 105-131, Spring.
    12. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
    13. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
    14. Epple, Dennis & Visscher, Michael, 1984. "Environmental Pollution: Modeling Occurrence, Detection, and Deterrence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 29-60, April.
    15. Montserrat Grau & Theodore Groves, 1997. "The Oil Spill Process: The Effect of Coast Guard Monitoring on Oil Spills," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(4), pages 315-339, December.
    16. Ronald A. Dye, 1986. "Optimal Monitoring Policies in Agencies," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(3), pages 339-350, Autumn.
    17. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
    18. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Self-Reporting of Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 583-606, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Ralf Elbert & Holger Pontow & Alexander Benlian, 0. "The role of inter-organizational information systems in maritime transport chains," Electronic Markets, Springer;IIM University of St. Gallen, vol. 0, pages 1-17.
    2. Michael W. Toffel & Jodi L. Short, 2011. "Coming Clean and Cleaning Up: Does Voluntary Self-Reporting Indicate Effective Self-Policing?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(3), pages 609-649.
    3. Vollaard, Ben, 2017. "Temporal displacement of environmental crime: Evidence from marine oil pollution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 168-180.
    4. Fan, Lixian & Luo, Meifeng & Yin, Jinbo, 2014. "Flag choice and Port State Control inspections—Empirical evidence using a simultaneous model," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 350-357.
    5. repec:spr:elmark:v:27:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s12525-016-0216-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Motta, Alberto & Burlando, Alfredo, 2007. "Self reporting reduces corruption in law enforcement," MPRA Paper 5332, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 23 Jun 2007.
    7. Juergen Jung & Michael D. Makowsky, 2012. "Regulatory Enforcement, Politics, and Institutional Distance: OSHA Inspections 1990-2010," Working Papers 2012-02, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2013.

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