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Aversion to the variability of pay and optimal incentive contracts

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  • Pierre Chaigneau

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Abstract

In a moral hazard setting with a performance additive in effort and a symmetrically distributed noise term, I show that compensation contracts which are convex in performance are suboptimal when the agent has mean-variance preferences. With step contracts, I show that sticks are more efficient than carrots: an exogenously given lower bound on payments is binding at the optimum. Intuitively, the variance of the agent's pay conditional on a high effort should be as low as possible, while it should be as high as possible conditional on a low effort. From an ex ante perspective, which is relevant for effort inducement, this maximizes the rewards associated to high effort, and the punishments associated to low effort. These results call into question the widespread use of stock-options and contracts with rewards-like features to provide incentives to risk averse executives.

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  • Pierre Chaigneau, 2010. "Aversion to the variability of pay and optimal incentive contracts," FMG Discussion Papers dp654, Financial Markets Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:fmg:fmgdps:dp654
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    File URL: http://www.lse.ac.uk/fmg/workingPapers/discussionPapers/fmgdps/dp654.pdf
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    1. Carola Frydman & Raven E. Saks, 2010. "Executive Compensation: A New View from a Long-Term Perspective, 1936--2005," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(5), pages 2099-2138.
    2. 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.
    3. James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1980. "Experience, Performance, and Earnings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(4), pages 703-736.
    4. Jewitt, Ian, 1988. "Justifying the First-Order Approach to Principal-Agent Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1177-1190, September.
    5. 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.
    6. Murphy, Kevin J., 1999. "Executive compensation," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2485-2563 Elsevier.
    7. 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, February.
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