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Dynamic Asset Allocation with Hidden Volatility

48 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2016 Last revised: 16 Dec 2017

Felix Zhiyu Feng

University of Notre Dame

Mark M. Westerfield

University of Washington

Date Written: December 5, 2017


We study a dynamic continuous-time principal-agent model with endogenous cash-flow volatility. The principal supplies the agent with capital for investment, but the agent can misallocate capital for private benefit and has private control over both the volatility of the project and the size of the investment. Depending on the curvature of the returns function, the optimal contract can yield either overly-risky or overly-prudent project selection; it can be implemented as a time-varying cost of capital in the form of a hurdle rate. Our model captures stylized facts about the use of hurdle rates in capital budgeting, particularly a small or zero price of volatility, and it helps reconcile mixed empirical evidence on risk choice and managerial compensation.

Keywords: dynamic agency, volatility control, capital budgeting, cost of capital, continuous time

JEL Classification: D86, D82, G31

Suggested Citation

Feng, Felix Zhiyu and Westerfield, Mark M., Dynamic Asset Allocation with Hidden Volatility (December 5, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Zhiyu Feng

University of Notre Dame ( email )

3079 Jenkins-Nanovic
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States
(574)631-0428 (Phone)


Mark M. Westerfield (Contact Author)

University of Washington ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195
United States


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