Contracting on What Firm Owners Value
46 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2021 Last revised: 4 Feb 2022
Date Written: July 24, 2021
We revisit foundational questions in agency theory while assuming that the agent can fine-tune the joint distribution of all contractible and non-contractible performance measures. Under this assumption, optimal contracts behave as if the principal were making inferences about the outcome she values rather than about the agent's action. This has significant implications for what measures are included in contracts and how those measures are used. Most importantly, Holmström's (1979) informativeness principle changes. A performance measure is valuable if it improves inferences not about the agent's action, but about the outcome the principal values; and if that outcome is contractible, additional measures have no value. Our model predicts that contracts should be written only on outcomes that firm owners value, consistent with real-world contracts that tie executive pay to only a handful of accounting, market, or nonfinancial measures.
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