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Tractability in Incentive Contracting

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  • Alex Edmans
  • Xavier Gabaix

Abstract

This paper identifies a class of multiperiod agency problems in which the optimal contract is tractable (attainable in closed form). By modeling the noise before the action in each period, we force the contract to provide sufficient incentives state-by-state, rather than merely on average. This tightly constrains the set of admissible contracts and allows for a simple solution to the contracting problem. Our results continue to hold in continuous time, where noise and actions are simultaneous. We thus extend the tractable contracts of Holmstrom and Milgrom (1987) to settings that do not require exponential utility, a pecuniary cost of effort, Gaussian noise or continuous time. The contract's functional form is independent of the noise distribution. Moreover, if the cost of effort is pecuniary (multiplicative), the contract is linear (log-linear) in output and its slope is independent of the noise distribution, utility function and reservation utility. In a two-stage contracting game, the optimal target action depends on the costs and benefits of the environment, but is independent of the noise realization.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Edmans & Xavier Gabaix, 2009. "Tractability in Incentive Contracting," NBER Working Papers 15545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15545
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    Cited by:

    1. LiCalzi, Marco & Pavan, Alessandro, 2005. "Tilting the supply schedule to enhance competition in uniform-price auctions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 227-250, January.
    2. Zhiguo He & Bin Wei & Jianfeng Yu & Feng Gao, 2017. "Optimal Long-Term Contracting with Learning," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 30(6), pages 2006-2065.
    3. Siegert, Caspar & Trepper, Piers, 2015. "Optimal tolerance for failure," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 41-55.
    4. Bergemann, Dirk & Pavan, Alessandro, 2015. "Introduction to Symposium on Dynamic Contracts and Mechanism Design," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 159(PB), pages 679-701.
    5. Bannier, Christina E. & Feess, Eberhard & Packham, Natalie, 2014. "Incentive schemes, private information and the double-edged role of competition for agents," CFS Working Paper Series 475, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    6. Edmans, Alex & Gabaix, Xavier, 2010. "Risk and CEO Market: Why Do Some Large Firms Hire Highly-Paid, Low-Talent CEOs?," Working Papers 10-17, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center.
    7. Peng, Lin & Röell, Ailsa A & Tang, Hongfei, 2016. "CEO Incentives: Measurement, Determinants, and Impact on Performance," CEPR Discussion Papers 11417, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Pierre Chaigneau & Nicolas Sahuguet, 2014. "Explaining the Association between Monitoring and Controversial CEO Pay Practices: an Optimal Contracting Perspective," Cahiers de recherche 1406, CIRPEE.
    9. Laux, Volker, 2012. "Stock option vesting conditions, CEO turnover, and myopic investment," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(3), pages 513-526.
    10. Garrett, Daniel F. & Pavan, Alessandro, 2015. "Dynamic managerial compensation: A variational approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 159(PB), pages 775-818.
    11. Golman, Russell & Bhatia, Sudeep, 2012. "Performance evaluation inflation and compression," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 534-543.
    12. Edmans, Alex & Gabaix, Xavier & Sadzik, Tomasz & Sannikov, Yuliy, 2009. "Dynamic Incentive Accounts," CEPR Discussion Papers 7497, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Chaigneau, Pierre, 2013. "Risk-shifting and the regulation of bank CEOs’ compensation," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 778-789.
    14. George-Marios Angeletos & Alessandro Pavan, 2007. "Socially Optimal Coordination: Characterization and Policy Implications," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(2-3), pages 585-593, 04-05.
    15. Stanimir Morfov & Manuel Santos, 2017. "A Model of Managerial Talent: Addressing Some Puzzles in CEO Compensation," Working Papers 2017-03, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
    16. Edmans, Alex & Gabaix, Xavier, 2010. "Risk and the CEO Market: Why Do Some Large Firms Hire Highly-Paid, Low-Talent CEOs?," CEPR Discussion Papers 7836, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. repec:oup:revfin:v:21:y:2017:i:5:p:1805-1846. is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Carroll, Gabriel & Meng, Delong, 2016. "Robust contracting with additive noise," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 586-604.
    19. Daniel F. Garrett & Alessandro Pavan, 2012. "Managerial Turnover in a Changing World," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(5), pages 879-925.
    20. Chaigneau, Pierre & Sahuguet, Nicolas, 2013. "The effect of monitoring on CEO pay practices in a matching equilibrium," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 55405, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    21. Zhiguo He & Si Li & Bin Wei & Jianfeng Yu, 2014. "Uncertainty, Risk, and Incentives: Theory and Evidence," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(1), pages 206-226, January.
    22. Dirk Bergemann & Alessandro Pavan, 2015. "Introduction to JET Symposium Issue on "Dynamic Contracts and Mechanism Design"," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2016, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    23. Piskorski, Tomasz & Westerfield, Mark M., 2016. "Optimal dynamic contracts with moral hazard and costly monitoring," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 242-281.
    24. repec:oup:rfinst:v:21:y:2017:i:5:p:1805-1846. is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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