IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Computing an Optimal Contract in Simple Technologies


  • Yuval Emek


  • Michal Feldman



We study an economic setting in which a principal motivates a team of strategic agents to exert costly effort toward the success of a joint project. The action taken by each agent is hidden and affects the (binary) outcome of the agent's individual task stochastically. A Boolean function, called technology, maps the individual tasks' outcomes into the outcome of the whole project. The principal induces a Nash equilibrium on the agents' actions through payments that are conditioned on the project's outcome (rather than the agents' actual actions) and the main challenge is that of determining the Nash equilibrium that maximizes the principal's net utility, referred to as the optimal contract. Babaioff, Feldman and Nisan [1] suggest and study a basic combinatorial agency model for this setting. Here, we concentrate mainly on two extreme cases: the AND and OR technologies. Our analysis of the OR technology resolves an open question and disproves a conjecture raised in [1]. In particular, we show that while the AND case admits a polynomial-time algorithm, computing the optimal contract in the OR case is NP-hard. On the positive side, we devise an FPTAS for the OR case, which also sheds some light on optimal contract approximation of general technologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuval Emek & Michal Feldman, 2007. "Computing an Optimal Contract in Simple Technologies," Discussion Paper Series dp452, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  • Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp452

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eyal Winter, 2004. "Incentives and Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 764-773, June.
    2. Babaioff, Moshe & Feldman, Michal & Nisan, Noam & Winter, Eyal, 2012. "Combinatorial agency," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(3), pages 999-1034.
    3. Nisan, Noam & Ronen, Amir, 2001. "Algorithmic Mechanism Design," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 35(1-2), pages 166-196, April.
    4. Patrick Legros & Steven A. Matthews, 1993. "Efficient and Nearly-Efficient Partnerships," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 599-611.
    5. Dilip Mookherjee, 1984. "Optimal Incentive Schemes with Many Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(3), pages 433-446.
    6. Roland Strausz, "undated". "Moral Hazard in Sequential Teams," Papers 001, Departmental Working Papers.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp452. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael Simkin). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.