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Portfolio Performance and Agency


  • Philip H. Dybvig
  • Heber K. Farnsworth
  • Jennifer Carpenter


The evaluation and compensation of portfolio managers is an important problem for practitioners. Optimal compensation will induce managers to expend effort to generate information and to use it appropriately in an informed portfolio choice. Our general model points the way towards analysis of optimal performance evaluation and contracting in a rich model. Optimal contracting in the model includes an important role for portfolio restrictions that are more complex than the sharing rule. The agent's compensation gives the agent approximately to benchmark return plus an incentive fee equal to a portfolio measure that is approximately the excess of return above the benchmark. This measure is often used by practitioners but is simpler than the Jensen measure and other measures commonly recommended in the academic literature. In addition to the excess return above the fixed benchmark, the manager is given some additional incentive to take a position that deviates from the benchmark to remove an incentive to tend towards being a "closet indexer." Efficient contracting involves restrictions on what portfolio strategies can be pursued, and prior communication of the information gathered.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip H. Dybvig & Heber K. Farnsworth & Jennifer Carpenter, 1999. "Portfolio Performance and Agency," New York University, Leonard N. Stern School Finance Department Working Paper Seires 99-046, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business-.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:nystfi:99-046

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rogerson, William P, 1985. "The First-Order Approach to Principal-Agent Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1357-1367, November.
    2. Admati, Anat R & Pfleiderer, Paul, 1997. "Does It All Add Up? Benchmarks and the Compensation of Active Portfolio Managers," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70(3), pages 323-350, July.
    3. Myerson, Roger B, 1979. "Incentive Compatibility and the Bargaining Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 61-73, January.
    4. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
    5. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-328, March.
    6. Oliver Hart & Bengt Holmstrom, 1986. "The Theory of Contracts," Working papers 418, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    7. Jaeyoung Sung, 1995. "Linearity with Project Selection and Controllable Diffusion Rate in Continuous-Time Principal-Agent Problems," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(4), pages 720-743, Winter.
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