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Robust Incentive Contracts

  • Wernerfelt, Birger

We look at a principal-agent model in which the agent has to perform an action, the difficulty of which is better known ex interim than ex ante. We compare two contracting regimes; one with commitment to an ex ante negotiated contract, and one with an ex interim negotiated contract. The ex ante contract can not be too steep, but attempts to negotiate a steeper ex interim contract may result in bargaining failure. We find that the relative efficiency of the two contracting regimes depends on the nature of the differences between tasks. In a dynamic version of the analysis, we further find that the comparison depends on the frequency with which new tasks are needed. The argument can be interpreted as an analysis of the tradeoff between weak incentives in the firm and the possibility of unsuccessful negotiations in the market

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/4052
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Paper provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management in its series Working papers with number 4448-03.

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Date of creation: 13 Feb 2004
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Handle: RePEc:mit:sloanp:4052
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  1. Fudenberg, Drew & Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1990. "Short-term contracts and long-term agency relationships," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 1-31, June.
  2. Jonathan Levin, 2003. "Relational Incentive Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 835-857, June.
  3. Roger B. Myerson & Mark A. Satterthwaite, 1981. "Efficient Mechanisms for Bilateral Trading," Discussion Papers 469S, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1994. "The Firm as an Incentive System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 972-91, September.
  5. Steven Tadelis, 2002. "Complexity, Flexibility, and the Make-or-Buy Decision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 433-437, May.
  6. Patrick Bajari & Steven Tadelis, 1999. "Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts," Working Papers 99029, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  7. Duncan Simester & Marc Knez, 2002. "Direct and Indirect Bargaining Costs and the Scope of the Firm," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75(2), pages 283-304, April.
  8. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-28, March.
  9. Birger Wernerfelt, 2002. "Why Should the Boss Own the Assets?," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 473-485, 09.
  10. Wernerfelt, Birger, 1997. "On the Nature and Scope of the Firm: An Adjustment-Cost Theory," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70(4), pages 489-514, October.
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