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Consumers and Agency Problems

  • Canice J. Prendergast
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    Consumers solve many agency problems, by pointing out when they believe that agents have made mistakes. This paper considers the role that consumers play in inducing efficient behavior by agents. I distinguish between two case: those where consumers have similar preferences to the principal, and those where consumer preferences diverge from those of the principal. In the former case, allowing consumer feedback improves allocations, and increasing consumer information is unambiguously beneficial. In the case where consumers disagree with principals over desired outcomes, which characterizes many benefits given by the public sector, consumers feedback about the performance of agents can reduce welfare. This may result in efficiently restricting the ability of consumers to complain about agent performance.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8445.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8445.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2001
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    Publication status: published as Prendergast, Canice. "Consumers And Agency Problems," Economic Journal, 2002, v112(478,Mar), C34-C51.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8445
    Note: LS
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    1. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    2. Milbourn, Todd T & Shockley, Richard L & Thakor, Anjan V, 2001. "Managerial Career Concerns and Investments in Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(2), pages 334-51, Summer.
    3. Carmichael, H Lorne, 1988. "Incentives in Academics: Why Is There Tenure?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 453-72, June.
    4. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
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