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Dynamic Managerial Compensation: a Mechanism Design Approach

  • Daniel Garrett
  • Alessandro Pavan

We characterize the optimal incentive scheme for a manager who faces costly effort decisions and whose ability to generate profits for the firm varies stochastically over time. The optimal contract is obtained as the solution to a dynamic mechanism design problem with hidden actions and persistent shocks to the agent's productivity. When the agent is risk-neutral, the optimal contract can often be implemented with a simple pay package that is linear in the firm's profits. Furthermore, the power of the incentive scheme typically increases over time, thus providing a possible justification for the frequent practice of putting more stocks and options in the package of managers with a longer tenure in the firm. In contrast to other explanations proposed in the literature (e.g., declining disutility of effort or career concerns), the optimality of seniority-based reward schemes is not driven by variations in the agent's preferences or in his outside option. It results from an optimal allocation of the manager's informational rents over time. Building on the insights from the risk-neutral case, we then explore the properties of optimal incentive schemes for risk-averse managers. We find that, other things equal, risk-aversion reduces the benefit of inducing higher effort over time. Whether (risk-averse) managers with a longer tenure receive more or less high-powered incentives than younger ones then depends on the interaction between the degree of risk aversion and the dynamics of the impulse responses for the shocks to the manager's type.

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Paper provided by Collegio Carlo Alberto in its series Carlo Alberto Notebooks with number 127.

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Length: 63 pages
Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:127
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  1. Stefania Albanesi & Christopher Sleet, 2006. "Dynamic Optimal Taxation with Private Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 1-30.
  2. Gibbons, R. & Murphy, K.J., 1990. "Optimal Incentive Contracts In The Presence Of Career Concerns: Theory And Evidence," Working papers 563, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Alessandro Pavan & Ilya Segal & Juuso Toikka, 2008. "Dynamic Mechanism Design: Incentive Compatibility, Profit Maximization and Information Disclosure," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 84, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  4. Mathias Dewatripont & Ian Jewitt & Jean Tirole, 1999. "The economics of career concerns: part 1 :comparing information structures," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9617, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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  6. Phelan, C. & Townsend, R.M., 1990. "Computing Multiperiod, Information-Constrained Optima," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 90-13, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  7. Milgrom, P. & Shannon, C., 1991. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Papers 11, Stanford - Institute for Thoretical Economics.
  8. Peter M. DeMarzo & Michael J. Fishman, 2007. "Optimal Long-Term Financial Contracting," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 20(6), pages 2079-2128, November.
  9. Stephen Coate & Marco Battaglini, 2004. "Pareto Efficient Income Taxation with Stochastic Abilities," 2004 Meeting Papers 140, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Zhang, Yuzhe, 2009. "Dynamic contracting with persistent shocks," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(2), pages 635-675, March.
  11. Spear, Stephen E & Srivastava, Sanjay, 1987. "On Repeated Moral Hazard with Discounting," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(4), pages 599-617, October.
  12. PETER M. DeMARZO & YULIY SANNIKOV, 2006. "Optimal Security Design and Dynamic Capital Structure in a Continuous-Time Agency Model," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(6), pages 2681-2724, December.
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