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The Role of the Agent's Outside Options in Principal-Agent Relationships

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  • Imran Rasul
  • Silvia Sonderegger

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Abstract

We consider a principal-agent model of adverse selection where, in order to trade with the principal, the agent must undertake a relationship-specific investment which affects his outside option to trade, i.e. the payoff that he can obtain by trading with an alternative principal. This creates a distinction between the agent’s ex ante (before investment) and ex post (after investment) outside options to trade. We investigate the consequences of this distinction, and show that whenever an agent's ex ante and ex post outside options differ, this equips the principal with an additional tool for screening among different agent types, by randomizing over the probability with which trade occurs once the agent has undertaken the investment. In turn, this may enhance the e¢ciency of the optimal second-best contract.

Suggested Citation

  • Imran Rasul & Silvia Sonderegger, 2008. "The Role of the Agent's Outside Options in Principal-Agent Relationships," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 08/605, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  • Handle: RePEc:bri:uobdis:08/605
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    Cited by:

    1. Englmaier, Florian & Muehlheusser, Gerd & Roider, Andreas, 2010. "Optimal Incentive Contracts under Moral Hazard When the Agent is Free to Leave," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 329, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    2. Roig, Guillem, 2014. "Competition and the Hold‐U p Problem: a Setting with Non‐exclusive Contracts," TSE Working Papers 14-481, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    3. Englmaier, Florian & Muehlheusser, Gerd & Roider, Andreas, 2014. "Optimal incentive contracts for knowledge workers," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 82-106.
    4. Gick, Wolfgang, 2015. "A Theory of Delegated Contracting," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113069, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    5. Stefan Terstiege, 2011. "Randomization in contracts with endogenous information," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse07_2011, University of Bonn, Germany.
    6. Goldlücke, Susanne & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2014. "Investments as signals of outside options," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 683-708.
    7. Raphael Boleslavsky & Christopher Hennessy & David L. Kelly, 2017. "Markets vs. Mechanisms," Working Papers 2017-11, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
    8. Franck Bien & Thomas Lanzi, 2017. "Contracting for information: on the effects of the principal's outside option," Working Papers hal-01491912, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    adverse selection; randomization; type-dependent outside options.;

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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