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Fishing for Excuses and Performance Evaluation

  • François Larmande
  • Jean-Pierre Ponssard

We study a principal-agent model in which the agent can provide ex post additional relevant information regarding his performance. In particular, he can provide a legitimate excuse, that is, evidence that a poor result is only due to factors outside his control. However, building a convincing case requires time, time that is not spent on exerting productive effort, and thus generating information represents an opportunity cost. We obtain necessary and sufficient conditions for the principal to prefer a policy of adjusting ex post the performance measure for the information provided by the agent to a policy of conforming to a result-based system with no adjustments. The risk aversion and a possible limited liability of the agent play an important role in the analysis. This paper clarifies the issues associated with the so-called “excuse culture” prevailing in some organizations.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2014/wp-cesifo-2014-01/cesifo1_wp4569.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4569.

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Date of creation: 2014
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4569
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  1. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1988. "Moral Hazard and Renegotiation in Agency Contracts," Working papers 494, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Sunil Dutta, 2002. "The Effect of Earnings Forecasts on Earnings Management," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 631-655, 06.
  3. Larmande, Francois, 2013. "Limited liability, the first-order approach, and the ranking of information systems in agencies," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 314-317.
  4. Joel S. Demski & Hans Frimor & David E. M. Sappington, 2004. "Efficient Manipulation in a Repeated Setting," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(1), pages 31-49, 03.
  5. Bentley W. MacLeod, 2003. "Optimal Contracting with Subjective Evaluation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 216-240, March.
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