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Contract Complexity, Incentives and the Value of Delegation


  • Nahum Melamad
  • Dilip Mookherjee


  • Stefan Reichelstein


In settings where the revelation principle applies, delegation arrangements are frequently inferior to centralized decision making, and at best achieve the same level of performance. This paper studies the value of delegation when organizations are constrained by a bound on the number of contingencies in any contract. For a principal-agent setting with asymmetric information, we compare centralized mechanisms where the principal retains sole responsibility for contracting and coordinating production, with delegation mechanisms where one agent (a manager) is delegated authority to contract with other agents and coordinate production. Relative to centralization, delegation entails a control loss, but allows decisions to be more sensitive to the manager's private information. We identify circumstances under which the flexibility gain outweighs the control loss, so that delegation emerges superior to centralized contracting. Copyright (c) 1997 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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Suggested Citation

  • Nahum Melamad & Dilip Mookherjee & Stefan Reichelstein, 1996. "Contract Complexity, Incentives and the Value of Delegation," Papers 0070, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:bostin:0070

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bliss, C. J., 1975. "Capital Theory and the Distribution of Income," Elsevier Monographs, Elsevier, edition 1, number 9780720436044 edited by Bliss, C. J..
    2. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1986. "Using Cost Observation to Regulate Firms," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 614-641, June.
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    7. William P. Rogerson, 1987. "On the Optimality of Menus of Linear Contracts," Discussion Papers 714, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    8. Melumad, Nahum D. & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1989. "Value of communication in agencies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 334-368, April.
    9. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1990. "The Principal-Agent Relationship with an Informed Principal: The Case of Private Values," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(2), pages 379-409, March.
    10. Stanley Reiter, 1995. "Coordination and the Structure of Firms," Discussion Papers 1121, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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    13. Melumad, Nahum & Mookherjee, Dilip & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1992. "A theory of responsibility centers," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 445-484, December.
    14. Radner, Roy, 1993. "The Organization of Decentralized Information Processing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1109-1146, September.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)
    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General


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