Principal-agent Incentives, Excess Caution, and Market Inefficiency: Evidence From Utility Regulation
Regulators and firms often use incentive schemes to attract skillful agents and to induce them to put forth effort in pursuit of the principals' goals. Incentive schemes that reward skill and effort, however, may also punish agents for adverse outcomes beyond their control. As a result, such schemes may induce inefficient behavior, as agents try to avoid actions that might make it easier to directly associate a bad outcome with their decisions. In this paper, we study how such caution on the part of individual agents may lead to inefficient market outcomes, focusing on the context of natural gas procurement by regulated public utilities. We posit that a regulated natural gas distribution company may, due to regulatory incentives, engage in excessively cautious behavior by foregoing surplus-increasing gas trades that could be seen ex post as having caused supply curtailments to its customers. We derive testable implications of such behavior and show that the theory is supported empirically in ways that cannot be explained by conventional price risk aversion or other explanations. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the reduction in efficient trade caused by the regulatory mechanism is most severe during periods of relatively high demand and low supply, when the benefits of trade would be greatest.
|Date of creation:||Dec 2007|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Angus Deaton & Guy Laroque, 1990.
"On The Behavior of Commodity Prices,"
NBER Working Papers
3439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Bengt Holmström, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 169-182.
- Carlton, Dennis W, 1979. "Contracts, Price Rigidity, and Market Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 1034-1062, October.
- Carter, Colin A & Rausser, Gordon C & Schmitz, Andrew, 1983.
"Efficient Asset Portfolios and the Theory of Normal Backwardation,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 319-331, April.
- Carter, Colin A. & Rausser, Gordon C. & Schmitz, Andrew, 1982. "Efficient asset portfolios and the theory of normal backwardation," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt59c8m4x6, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
- Bengt Holmstrom, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," NBER Working Papers 6875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Adam Brandenburger & Ben Polak, 1996. "When Managers Cover Their Posteriors: Making the Decisions the Market Wants to See," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(3), pages 523-541, Autumn.
- Bailey, Roy E & Chambers, Marcus J, 1994.
"A Theory of Commodity Price Fluctuations,"
Economics Discussion Papers
2772, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
- David Finnoff & Curtis Cramer & Sherrill Shaffer, 2004. "The Financial and Operational Impacts of FERC Order 636 on the Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Industry," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 243-270, 05.
- Lyon, Thomas P, 1992. "Regulation with "20-20 Hindsight": Least-Cost Rules and Variable Costs," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 277-289, September.
- Dennis W. Carlton, 1986.
"The Rigidity of Prices,"
NBER Working Papers
1813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Deaton, Angus & Laroque, Guy, 1996. "Competitive Storage and Commodity Price Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 896-923, October.
- Rick Harbaugh, 2005. "Prospect Theory or Skill Signaling?," Working Papers 2005-06, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
- Scharfstein, David S & Stein, Jeremy C, 1990.
"Herd Behavior and Investment,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 465-479, June.
- Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985.
"Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models,"
Journal of Business & Economic Statistics,
American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-379, October.
- Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 2002. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 88-97, January.
- Palley, Thomas I., 1995. "Safety in numbers: A model of managerial herd behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 443-450, December.
- Cremer, Helmuth & Gasmi, Farid & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 2003. "Access to Pipelines in Competitive Gas Markets," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 5-33, July.
- Dusak, Katherine, 1973. "Futures Trading and Investor Returns: An Investigation of Commodity Market Risk Premiums," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(6), pages 1387-1406, Nov.-Dec..
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13679. 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: ()
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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.