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Seeking Alpha: Excess Risk Taking and Competition for Managerial Talent

  • Acharya, Viral V
  • Pagano, Marco
  • Volpin, Paolo

We present a model of labor market equilibrium in which managers are risk-averse, managerial talent (‘alpha’) is scarce, and firms seek alpha, that is, compete for this talent. When managers are not mobile across firms, firms provide efficient long-term compensation, which allows for learning about managerial talent and insures low-quality managers. In contrast, when managers can move across firms, high-quality managers can fully extract the rents arising from their skill, which prevents firms from providing co-insurance among their employees. In anticipation, risk-averse managers may churn across firms before their performance is fully learnt and thereby prevent their efficient choice of projects. The result is excessive risk-taking with pay for short-term performance and build up of long-term risks. We conclude with analysis of policies to address the resulting inefficiency in firms' compensation.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8905.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8905
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  1. Guillaume Plantin & Igor Makarov, 2010. "Rewarding Trading Skills Without Inducing Gambling," 2010 Meeting Papers 899, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Benabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2013. "Bonus Culture: Competitive Pay, Screening, and Multitasking," IZA Discussion Papers 7321, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Diego Comin & Sunil Mulani, 2006. "Diverging Trends in Aggregate and Firm Volatility," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 374-383, May.
  4. Daniel Gottlieb & Kent Smetters, 2011. "Grade Non-Disclosure," NBER Working Papers 17465, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Malkiel, Burton & Campbell, John & Lettau, Martin & Xu, Yexiao, 2001. "Have Individual Stocks Become More Volatile? An Empirical Exploration of Idiosyncratic Risk," Scholarly Articles 3128707, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1971. "The Private and Social Value of Information and the Reward to Inventive Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(4), pages 561-74, September.
  7. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2008. "Why Has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 49-100, 02.
  8. Fahlenbrach, Rüdiger & Stulz, René M., 2011. "Bank CEO incentives and the credit crisis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 11-26, January.
  9. Ing-Haw Cheng & Harrison Hong & Jose Scheinkman, 2010. "Yesterday's Heroes: Compensation and Creative Risk-Taking," NBER Chapters, in: Market Institutions and Financial Market Risk National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. John Thanassoulis, 2011. "The Case For Intervening In Bankers' Pay," Economics Series Working Papers 532, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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