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Building an honest microfinance organization: Embezzlement and the optimality of rigid repayment schedules and joint liability


  • Doh-Shin Jeon
  • Domenico Menicucci


We consider the agency problem of a staff member managing microfinancing programs, who can abuse his discretion to embezzle borrowers' repayments. The fact that most borrowers of microfinancing programs are illiterate and live in rural areas where transportation costs are very high make staff's embezzlement particularly relevant as is documented by Mknelly and Kevane (2002). We study the trade-off between the optimal rigid lending contract and the optimal discretionary one and find that a rigid contract is optimal when the audit cost is larger than gains from insurance. Our analysis explains rigid repayment schedules used by the Grameen bank as an optimal response to the bank staff's agency problem. Joint liability reduces borrowers' burden of respecting the rigid repayment schedules by providing them with partial insurance. However, the same insurance can be provided by borrowers themselves under individual liability through a side-contract.

Suggested Citation

  • Doh-Shin Jeon & Domenico Menicucci, 2006. "Building an honest microfinance organization: Embezzlement and the optimality of rigid repayment schedules and joint liability," Economics Working Papers 893, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:893

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Antoine Faure-Grimaud & Jean-Jacques Laffont & David Martimort, 2003. "Collusion, Delegation and Supervision with Soft Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(2), pages 253-279.
    2. Ghatak, Maitreesh, 1999. "Group lending, local information and peer selection," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 27-50, October.
    3. Ghatak, Maitreesh & Guinnane, Timothy W., 1999. "The economics of lending with joint liability: theory and practice," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 195-228, October.
    4. Armendariz de Aghion, Beatriz, 1999. "On the design of a credit agreement with peer monitoring," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 79-104, October.
    5. MkNelly, Barbara & Kevane, Michael, 2002. "Improving Design and Performance of Group Lending: Suggestions from Burkina Faso," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 2017-2032, November.
    6. Conning, Jonathan, 1999. "Outreach, sustainability and leverage in monitored and peer-monitored lending," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 51-77, October.
    7. 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.
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    More about this item


    Microfinance; Group Lending; Joint Liability; Embezzlement; Hierarchy; Contract;

    JEL classification:

    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General

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