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Tractability in Incentive Contracting

  • Edmans, Alex

    (University of PA)

  • Gabaix, Xavier

    (NYU)

This paper identifies a class of multiperiod agency problems in which the optimal contract is tractable (attainable in closed form). By modeling the noise before the action in each period, we force the contract to provide correct incentives state-by-state, rather than merely on average. This tightly constrains the set of admissible contracts and allows for a simple solution to the contracting problem. Our results continue to hold in continuous time, where noise and actions are simultaneous. We thus extend the tractable contracts of Holmstrom and Milgrom (1987) to settings that do not require exponential utility, a pecuniary cost of effort, Gaussian noise or continuous time. The contract's functional form is independent of the noise distribution. Moreover, if the cost of effort is pecuniary (multiplicative), the contract is linear (log-linear) in output and its slope is independent of the noise distribution, utility function and reservation utility.

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File URL: http://fic.wharton.upenn.edu/fic/papers/10/10-13.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center in its series Working Papers with number 10-13.

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Date of creation: Mar 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:upafin:10-13
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  1. Richard Arnott & Joseph E Stiglitz, 2010. "Randomization with Asymmetric Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2054, David K. Levine.
  2. Alex Edmans & Xavier Gabaix & Tomasz Sadzik & Yuliy Sannikov, 2009. "Dynamic Incentive Accounts," NBER Working Papers 15324, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hui Ou-Yang, 2003. "Optimal Contracts in a Continuous-Time Delegated Portfolio Management Problem," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 16(1), pages 173-208.
  4. Hellwig, Martin F., 2007. "The role of boundary solutions in principal-agent problems of the Holmstrom-Milgrom type," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 446-475, September.
  5. Krishna, Vijay & Maenner, Eliot, 2001. "Convex Potentials with an Application to Mechanism Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 1113-19, July.
  6. Maug, Ernst & Dittmann, Ingolf, 2007. "Lower salaries and no options : the optimal structure of executive pay
    [Lower salaries and no options? On the optimal structure of executive pay]
    ," Papers 07-41, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
  7. 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.
  8. Caplin, Andrew & Nalebuff, Barry, 1991. "Aggregation and Social Choice: A Mean Voter Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(1), pages 1-23, January.
  9. 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.
  10. Brian J. Hall & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "Are CEOs Really Paid Like Bureaucrats?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 653-691.
  11. Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2000. "Stock Options for Undiversified Executives," NBER Working Papers 8052, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Biais, Bruno & Mariotti, Thomas & Plantin, Guillaume & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 2004. "Dynamic Security Design: Convergence to Continuous Time and Asset Pricing Implications," IDEI Working Papers 312, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised Sep 2006.
  13. Maug, Ernst & Dittmann, Ingolf, 2007. "Lower Salaries and No Options: The Optimal Structure of Executive Pay," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 07-41, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  14. Stephen E. Spear & Sanjay Srivastava, 1987. "On Repeated Moral Hazard with Discounting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(4), pages 599-617.
  15. Bruno Biais & Thomas Mariotti & Jean-Charles Rochet & StÈphane Villeneuve, 2010. "Large Risks, Limited Liability, and Dynamic Moral Hazard," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(1), pages 73-118, 01.
  16. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 1979. "Optimal incentive contracts with imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 231-259, April.
  17. Sappington, David, 1983. "Limited liability contracts between principal and agent," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-21, February.
  18. Lacker, Jeffrey M & Weinberg, John A, 1989. "Optimal Contracts under Costly State Falsification," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1345-63, December.
  19. Michael Kremer, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-575.
  20. Jewitt, Ian, 1988. "Justifying the First-Order Approach to Principal-Agent Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1177-90, September.
  21. repec:oup:restud:v:75:y:2008:i:3:p:957-984 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Rogerson, William P, 1985. "The First-Order Approach to Principal-Agent Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1357-67, November.
  23. Alberto Bennardo & Pierre-André Chiappori & Joon Song, 2010. "Perks as Second Best Optimal Compensations," CSEF Working Papers 244, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  24. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
  25. Ingolf Dittmann & Ernst Maug, 2007. "Lower Salaries and No Options? On the Optimal Structure of Executive Pay," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(1), pages 303-343, 02.
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