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Risk aversion, performance pay, and the principal-agent problem

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  • Joseph G. Haubrich

Abstract

This paper calculates numerical solutions to the principal-agent problem and compares the results to the stylized facts of CEO compensation. The numerical predictions come from parameterizing the models of Grossman and Hart and of Holmstrom and Milgrom. While the correct incentives for a CEO can greatly enhance a firm's performance, providing such incentives need not be expensive. For many parameter values, CEO compensation need only increase by about $10 for every $1,000 of additional shareholder value; for some values, the amount is 0.003 cents. The paper thus answers two challenges posed by Jensen: that principal-agent theory does not yield quantitative predictions, and that CEO compensation is insufficiently sensitive to firm performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph G. Haubrich, 1991. "Risk aversion, performance pay, and the principal-agent problem," Working Paper 9118, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:9118
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1990. "Consumption puzzles and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 113-136, January.
    2. Baker, George P & Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1988. " Compensation and Incentives: Practice vs. Theory," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 593-616, July.
    3. Joseph G. Haubrich, 2001. "Sharing with a risk-neutral agent," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q I, pages 2-8.
    4. Kandel, Shmuel & Stambaugh, Robert F., 1991. "Asset returns and intertemporal preferences," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 39-71, February.
    5. Michael C. Jensen & Kevin J. Murphy, 2010. "CEO Incentives-It's Not How Much You Pay, But How," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 22(1), pages 64-76.
    6. Weisbach, Michael S., 1988. "Outside directors and CEO turnover," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 431-460, January.
    7. Sheshinski, Eytan, 1989. "Note on the shape of the optimum income tax schedule," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 201-215, November.
    8. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    9. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
    10. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-328, March.
    11. Friend, Irwin & Blume, Marshall E, 1975. "The Demand for Risky Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 900-922, December.
    12. Sappington, David, 1983. "Limited liability contracts between principal and agent," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-21, February.
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    Keywords

    Executives - Salaries;

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