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Dynamic Managerial Compensation: a Mechanism Design Approach

  • Daniel Garrett
  • Alessandro Pavan

We characterize the optimal incentive scheme for a manager who faces costly effort decisions and whose ability to generate profits for the firm varies stochastically over time. The optimal contract is obtained as the solution to a dynamic mechanism design problem with hidden actions and persistent shocks to the agent’s productivity. When the agent is risk-neutral, the optimal contract can often be implemented with a simple pay package that is linear in the firm’s profits. Furthermore, the power of the incentive scheme typically increases over time, thus providing a possible justification for the frequent practice of putting more stocks and options in the package of managers with a longer tenure in the rm. In contrast to other explanations proposed in the literature (e.g., declining disutility of effort or career concerns), the optimality of seniority-based reward schemes is not driven by variations in the agent’s preferences or in his outside option. It results from an optimal allocation of the manager’s informational rents over time. Building on the insights from the risk-neutral case, we then explore the properties of optimal incentive schemes for risk-averse managers. We find that, other things equal, risk-aversion reduces the benefit of inducing higher effort over time. Whether (risk-averse) managers with a longer tenure receive more or less high-powered incentives than younger ones then depends on the interaction between the degree of risk aversion and the dynamics of the impulse responses for the shocks to the manager's type.

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Paper provided by Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science in its series Discussion Papers with number 1491.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1491
Contact details of provider: Postal: Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science, Northwestern University, 580 Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208-2014
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Web page: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/research/math/
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  1. Stephen Coate & Marco Battaglini, 2004. "Pareto Efficient Income Taxation with Stochastic Abilities," 2004 Meeting Papers 140, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1992. "Optimal Incentive Contracts in the Presence of Career Concerns: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 468-505, June.
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  4. Alessandro Pavan & Ilya Segal & Juuso Toikka, 2009. "Dynamic Mechanism Design: Incentive Compatibility, Profit Maximization and Information Disclosure," Discussion Papers 1501, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  5. Zhang, Yuzhe, 2009. "Dynamic contracting with persistent shocks," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(2), pages 635-675, March.
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  9. PETER M. DeMARZO & YULIY SANNIKOV, 2006. "Optimal Security Design and Dynamic Capital Structure in a Continuous-Time Agency Model," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(6), pages 2681-2724, December.
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