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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 European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2009/34.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2009/34
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  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 1-48.
  2. Wouter Dessein, 2000. "Authority and Communication in Organizations," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1747, Econometric Society.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Oliver D. Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points - Experimental Evidence," NBER Working Papers 14501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2005. "A Mechanism-Design Approach to Speculative Trade," CEPR Discussion Papers 5434, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Thibault Gajdos & Takashi Hayashi & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2006. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques v06081, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
  6. Mukerji, Sujoy & Tallon, Jean-Marc, 2004. "Ambiguity aversion and the absence of wage indexation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 653-670, April.
  7. Armstrong, Mark & Vickers, John, 2008. "A model of delegated project choice," MPRA Paper 8963, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Strzalecki, Tomasz & Werner, Jan, 2011. "Efficient allocations under ambiguity," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(3), pages 1173-1194, May.
  9. Peter Klibanoff & Massimo Marinacci & Sujoy Mukerji, 2005. "A Smooth Model of Decision Making under Ambiguity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1849-1892, November.
  10. Raith, Michael, 2004. "Specific Knowledge and Performance Measurement," CEPR Discussion Papers 4262, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-87, May.
  12. Billot, A. & Chateauneuf, A. & Gilboa, I. & Tallon, J.-M., 1998. "Sharing Beliefs: Between Agreeing and Disagreeing," Papiers d'Economie Mathématique et Applications 98.30, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
  13. repec:oup:restud:v:75:y:2008:i:1:p:259-293 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. 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.
  15. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," IDEI Working Papers 37, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  16. Mukerji, Sujoy, 1998. "Ambiguity Aversion and Incompleteness of Contractual Form," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1207-31, December.
  17. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-153, April.
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  19. Ricardo Alonso & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "Optimal delegation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58665, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  20. David Ahn & Syngjoo Choi & Douglas Gale & Shachar Kariv, 2008. "Estimating Ambiguity Aversion in a Portfolio Choice Experiment," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001989, David K. Levine.
  21. Rantakari Heikki V, 2008. "On the Role of Uncertainty in the Risk-Incentives Tradeoff," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-25, April.
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  23. Ghirardato, Paolo & Maccheroni, Fabio & Marinacci, Massimo, 2004. "Differentiating ambiguity and ambiguity attitude," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 133-173, October.
  24. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "Contracts as reference points � experimental evidence," IEW - Working Papers 393, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  25. Alonso, Ricardo & Matouschek, Niko, 2005. "Optimal Delegation," CEPR Discussion Papers 5289, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  26. 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.
  27. Ian Jewitt, 1987. "Risk Aversion and the Choice Between Risky Prospects: The Preservation of Comparative Statics Results," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(1), pages 73-85.
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