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Optimal Long-Term Financial Contracting with Privately Observed Cash Flows

Peter M. DeMarzo

Stanford Graduate School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Michael J. Fishman

Kellogg School of Management - Department of Finance

May 2004

We characterize the optimal long-term financial contract in a setting in which a risk-neutral agent with limited capital seeks financing for a project that pays stochastic cash flows over many periods. These cash flows are observable to the agent but not to investors. The agent can be induced to pay investors via the threat of the loss of control of the project. After solving for the contract as an optimal mechanism, we demonstrate that it can be implemented by a combination of equity, long-term debt and a line of credit - very simple, standard securities. Thus our model provides a theory of capital structure, capturing both optimal debt maturity and debt vs. equity financing. Equity is issued to investors and is also used for the agent's compensation. In equilibrium, the agent may default on the debt and control of the project may pass to debt holders. The optimal capital structure is robust in the sense that it is independent of the amount financed and under certain circumstances, independent of the severity of the moral hazard problem. We also show how our characterization applies to settings in which the agent undertakes hidden effort, or can alter the risk of cash flows.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: Optimal contracting, security design, capital structure, debt maturity, agency, moral hazard, principal agent, dynamic programming, incentives, cash flow diversion, asset substitution, default, credit line, compensating balance, debt, equity, dividend policy

JEL Classification: D82, G32, E24, J41, G21

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Date posted: July 7, 2004  

Suggested Citation

DeMarzo, Peter M. and Fishman, Michael J., Optimal Long-Term Financial Contracting with Privately Observed Cash Flows (May 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=562204 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.562204

Contact Information

Peter M. DeMarzo (Contact Author)
Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )
655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-736-1082 (Phone)
650-725-7979 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/people/pdemarzo

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Michael Jay Fishman
Kellogg School of Management - Department of Finance ( email )
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-8332 (Phone)
847-491-5719 (Fax)
Feedback to SSRN

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