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Sorting the Good Guys from Bad: On the Optimality of Deterministic Audit with Ex-Ante Information Acquisition

In a costly state verification model under commitment the principal may acquire a costly public and imperfectly revealing signal before or after contracting. If the project remains profitable after all signal realisations, optimally the signal is collected, if at all, after contracting, and it may be acquired randomly or deterministically. Moreover, audit is deterministic and targeted on some signal-state combinations. The paper provides a detailed characterisation of the optimal contract and performs a comparative static analysis of signal acquisition strategy and payoffs with respect to enforcement costs and informativeness of the signal. We explore robustness of the results, including commitment issues.

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Paper provided by Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy in its series CSEF Working Papers with number 201.

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Date of creation: 15 Jul 2008
Date of revision: 27 Oct 2012
Publication status: Published in Economic Theory, 2014, 57(2), 339-376, under the title "Sorting the Good Guys from Bad: On the Optimal Audit Structure under Ex-ante Information Acquisition"
Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:201
Note: A previous version has been circulated under the title “The Strategic and Social Power of Signal Acquisition".
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  1. Williamson, Stephen D., 1986. "Costly monitoring, financial intermediation, and equilibrium credit rationing," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 159-179, September.
  2. Cremer, Jacques & Khalil, Fahad, 1994. "Gathering information before the contract is offered: The case with two states of nature," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 675-682, April.
  3. Guillaume Carlier & Ludovic Renou, 2005. "A costly state verification model with diversity of opinions," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 25(2), pages 497-504, 02.
  4. Hvide, Hans K & Leite, Tore, 2007. "Optimal Debt Contracts under Costly Enforcement," CEPR Discussion Papers 6040, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Dilip Mookherjee & Ivan Png, 1989. "Optimal Auditing, Insurance, and Redistribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 399-415.
  6. Khalil, F & Rochet, J-C, 1997. "Contracts and Productive Information Gathering," Working Papers 97-16, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  7. Townsend, Robert M., 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 265-293, October.
  8. Crémer, Jacques & Khalil, Fahad, 1991. "Gathering Information before Signing a Contract," IDEI Working Papers 5, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  9. Cremer, J. & Khalil, F & Rochet, J.-C., 1996. "Strategic Information Gathering Before a Contract is Offered," Papers 976.425, Toulouse - GREMAQ.
  10. Inés Macho-Stadler & David Pérez-Castrillo, 1999. "Auditing with Signals," CIE Discussion Papers 1999-08, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics.
    • Macho-Stadler, Ines & Perez-Castrillo, J David, 2002. "Auditing with Signals," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 69(273), pages 1-20, February.
  11. Alberto Bennardo, 2008. "Information Gathering, Disclosure and Contracting in Competitive Markets," CSEF Working Papers 190, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  12. Kim C. Border & Joel Sobel, 1987. "Samurai Accountant: A Theory of Auditing and Plunder," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(4), pages 525-540.
  13. Mathias Dewatripont, 1988. "Commitment through Renegotiation-Proof Contracts with Third Parties," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/175990, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  14. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1992. "The Principal-Agent Relationship with an Informed Principal, II: Common Values," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(1), pages 1-42, January.
  15. Lewis, Tracy R & Sappington, David E M, 1997. "Information Management in Incentive Problems," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 796-821, August.
  16. Menichini Anna Maria C. & Simmons Peter J., 2006. "Liars and Inspectors: Optimal Financial Contracts When Monitoring is Non-Observable," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 1-19, June.
  17. Khalil, F., 1992. "Auditing Without Commitment," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 92-15, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  18. Parkash Chander & Louis L. Wilde, 1998. "A General Characterization of Optimal Income Tax Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(1), pages 165-183.
  19. Douglas Gale & Martin Hellwig, 1985. "Incentive-Compatible Debt Contracts: The One-Period Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(4), pages 647-663.
  20. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
  21. Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1987. "Audit Classes and Tax Enforcement Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 229-233, May.
  22. Hart, Oliver, 1995. "Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288817.
  23. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1990. "The Principal-Agent Relationship with an Informed Principal: The Case of Private Values," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(2), pages 379-409, March.
  24. Khalil, Fahad & Parigi, Bruno M, 1998. "Loan Size as a Commitment Device," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(1), pages 135-150, February.
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