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Flexible Contracts

  • Piero Gottardi
  • Jean Marc Tallon
  • Paolo Ghirardato

This paper studies the costs and benefits of delegating decisions to superiorly informed agents relative to the use of rigid, non discretionary contracts. Delegation grants some flexibility in the choice of the action by the agent, but also requires the use of an appropriate incentive contract so as to realign his interests with those of the principal. The parties’ understanding of the possible circumstances in which actions will have to be chosen and their attitude towards risk and uncertainty play then an important role in determining the costs of delegation. The main focus of the paper lies indeed in the analysis of these costs and the consequences for whether or not delegation is optimal.We determine and characterize the properties of the optimal flexible contract both when the parties have sharp probabilistic beliefs over the possible events in which the agent will have to act and when they only have a set of such beliefs. We show that the higher the agent’s degree of risk aversion, the higher the agency costs for delegation and hence the less profitable is a flexible contract versus a rigid one. The agent’s imprecision aversion in the case of multiple priors introduces another, additional agency costs; it again implies that the higher the degree of imprecision aversion the less profitable flexible contracts versus rigid ones. Even though, with multiple priors, the contract may be designed in such a way that principal and agent end up using ’different beliefs’ and hence engage in speculative trade, this is never optimal, in contrast with the case where the parties have sharp heterogeneous beliefs.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2927.

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Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2927
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  1. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2007. "A Mechanism-Design Approach to Speculative Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 875-884, 05.
  2. Antoine Billot & Alain Chateauneuf & Itzhak Gilboa & Jean-Marc Tallon, 2000. "Sharing Beliefs: Between Agreeing and Disagreeing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(3), pages 685-694, May.
  3. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-153, April.
  4. Bruno Jullien & Bernard Salanié & François Salanié, 1999. "Should More Risk-Averse Agents Exert More Effort?," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 24(1), pages 19-28, June.
  5. Ricardo Alonso & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "Optimal Delegation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 259-293.
  6. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," IDEI Working Papers 37, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  7. Ghirardato, Paolo & Maccheroni, Fabio & Marinacci, Massimo, 2004. "Differentiating ambiguity and ambiguity attitude," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 133-173, October.
  8. Thibault Gajdos & Takashi Hayashi & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2006. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00130179, HAL.
  9. Mukerji, S., 1997. "Ambiguity aversion and incompleteness of contractual form," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9715, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  10. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers, 2010. "A Model of Delegated Project Choice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(1), pages 213-244, 01.
  11. Canice Prendergast, 2002. "The Tenuous Trade-off between Risk and Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 1071-1102, October.
  12. Strzalecki, Tomasz & Werner, Jan, 2011. "Efficient allocations under ambiguity," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(3), pages 1173-1194, May.
  13. Sujoy Mukerji & Peter Klibanoff, 2002. "A Smooth Model of Decision,Making Under Ambiguity," Economics Series Working Papers 113, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  14. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-87, May.
  15. repec:oup:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:1-48 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. repec:oup:restud:v:54:y:1987:i:1:p:73-85 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. repec:oup:restud:v:69:y:2002:i:4:p:811-38 is not listed on IDEAS
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