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Gaming and Strategic Opacity in Incentive Provision

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Abstract

It is often suggested that incentive schemes under moral hazard can be gamed by an agent with superior knowledge of the environment, and that deliberate lack of transparency about the incentive scheme can reduce gaming. We formally investigate these arguments in a two-task moral hazard model in which the agent is privately informed about which task is less costly for him to work on. We examine two simple classes of incentive scheme that are "opaque" in that they make the agent uncertain ex ante about the values of the incentive coefficients in the linear payment rule. We show that, relative to deterministic menus of linear contracts, these opaque schemes induce more balanced efforts, but they also impose more risk on the agent per unit of aggregate effort induced. We identify settings in which optimally designed opaque schemes not only strictly dominate the best deterministic menu but also completely eliminate the efficiency losses from the agent's better knowledge of the environment. Opaque schemes are more likely to be preferred to transparent ones when i) efforts on the tasks are highly complementary for the principal; ii) the agent's privately known preference between the tasks is weak; iii) the agent's risk aversion is significant; and iv) the errors in measuring performance on the tasks have large correlation or small variance.

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  • Florian Ederer & Richard Holden & Margaret Meyer, 2014. "Gaming and Strategic Opacity in Incentive Provision," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1935, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1935
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    File URL: http://cowles.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/pub/d19/d1935.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Hogarth, Robin M. & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2014. "Ambiguous incentives and the persistence of effort: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 1-19.
    2. Breu, Maximilian, 2017. "Focusing Attention in Multiple Tasks," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168264, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González, 2015. "Revisiting the Tradeoff between Risk and Incentives: The Shocking Effect of Random Shocks," Working Papers 15-05, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Incentives; Gaming; Contracts; Opacity;

    JEL classification:

    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

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