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Transfer prices and incentive contracts in vertically-integrated divisionalized companies


  • Eric John Slof


This paper studies a divisionalized firm with sequential transfers in which central management wants to motivate two division managers who receive predecision information. Central management can only contract on the observables price, cost and quantity. Starting with the optimal compensation schemes as a benchmark, the paper considers the question whether using transfer prices to substitute for price and cost, respectively, can replicate the optimal solution or not. This is to say, whether using an aggregate measure comes at a loss. The results are dependent on the design constraints (i) single or 'dual' transfer prices and (ii) simultaneous design of the reward functions or exogenously given reward functions. Basically, only in the case that central management is restricted to given reward functions, and wants to use the same single transfer price for both divisions, there is a loss relative to the benchmark solution. In the other cases, generally, there is enough latitude to design the available functions to mimic the benchmark. The paper goes on to discuss special cases. First, it finds conditions when purely cost-based transfer prices are optimal, and second, it derives explicit solutions for given linear compensation schemes over divisional book profits.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric John Slof, 1999. "Transfer prices and incentive contracts in vertically-integrated divisionalized companies," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 265-286.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:8:y:1999:i:2:p:265-286
    DOI: 10.1080/096381899336032

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Holmstrom, Bengt & Tirole, Jean, 1991. "Transfer Pricing and Organizational Form," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 201-228, Fall.
    2. Kanodia, C, 1979. "Risk Sharing And Transfer Price Systems Under Uncertainty," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(1), pages 74-98.
    3. Alfred Wagenhofer, 1994. "Transfer pricing under asymmetric information," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(1), pages 71-103.
    4. Christensen, J & Demski, JS, 1998. "Profit allocation under ancillary trade," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(1), pages 71-89.
    5. Ronen, J & Balachandran, Kr, 1988. "An Approach To Transfer Pricing Under Uncertainty," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(2), pages 300-314.
    6. Dejong, Douglas V. & Forsythe, Robert & Kim, Jae-Oh & Uecker, Wilfred C., 1989. "A laboratory investigation of alternative transfer pricing mechanisms," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 14(1-2), pages 41-64, January.
    7. Ronen, J & Mckinney, G, 1970. "Transfer Pricing For Divisional Autonomy," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(1), pages 99-112.
    8. Melumad, Nahum & Mookherjee, Dilip & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1992. "A theory of responsibility centers," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 445-484, December.
    9. Besanko, David & Sibley, David S, 1991. "Compensation and Transfer Pricing in a Principal-Agent Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 32(1), pages 55-68, February.
    10. Groves, Theodore & Loeb, Martin, 1976. "Reflections on `social costs and benefits and the transfer pricing problem'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3-4), pages 353-359.
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    Cited by:

    1. Villegas, F. & Ouenniche, J., 2008. "A general unconstrained model for transfer pricing in multinational supply chains," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 187(3), pages 829-856, June.
    2. Edward Johnson & Nicole Bastian Johnson & Thomas Pfeiffer, 2016. "Dual transfer pricing with internal and external trade," Review of Accounting Studies, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 140-164, March.
    3. Amaury Grimand & Ewan Oiry & Aurélien Ragaigne, 2012. "Les Vertus Habilitantes Et Contraignantes Du Controle : Une Comparaison De Deux Etudes De Cas De Transformation Des Outils," Post-Print hal-00690940, HAL.

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