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Subjective ambiguity and moral hazard in a principal-agent model


  • Marcello Basili
  • Maurizio Franzini


It is suggested that individual behavior under ambiguity, or knightian uncertainty, may represent an alternative explanation for contractual incompleteness with respect to the traditional approach in terms of transactions costs. This paper aims at showing that the introduction of ambiguity in the economic analysis of contracts may be very fruitful. In particular, we analyze how ambiguity affects the optimal compensation scheme in a principal-agent framework, where the principal cannot observe the agent’s effort and, contrary to standard assumptions, is ambiguityaverse. Also, our model makes it possible to generalize the Mukerji (1998) approach to contractual incompleteness. In fact, it shows that incomplete contracts are costly and that, before reaching the conclusion that ambiguity leads to contractual incompleteness, their costs should be compared with those of complete contracts, other things being equal.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcello Basili & Maurizio Franzini, 2002. "Subjective ambiguity and moral hazard in a principal-agent model," Working Papers 64, University of Rome La Sapienza, Department of Public Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sap:wpaper:wp64

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jürgen Eichberger & David Kelsey, 1999. "E-Capacities and the Ellsberg Paradox," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 46(2), pages 107-138, April.
    2. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680.
    3. Mukerji, Sujoy, 1998. "Ambiguity Aversion and Incompleteness of Contractual Form," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1207-1231, December.
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    More about this item


    ambiguity; agency; E-capacity; contractual incompleteness.;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects


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