Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure

78 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 1998 Last revised: 18 May 2013

Michael C. Jensen

Social Science Electronic Publishing (SSEP), Inc.; Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

William H. Meckling

Simon School, University of Rochester (Deceased)

Date Written: July 1, 1976

Abstract

This paper integrates elements from the theory of agency, the theory of property rights and the theory of finance to develop a theory of the ownership structure of the firm. We define the concept of agency costs, show its relationship to the 'separation and control' issue, investigate the nature of the agency costs generated by the existence of debt and outside equity, demonstrate who bears the costs and why, and investigate the Pareto optimality of their existence. We also provide a new definition of the firm, and show how our analysis of the factors influencing the creation and issuance of debt and equity claims is a special case of the supply side of the completeness of markets problem.

Notes: Sadly, Dr. Meckling, Dean Emeritus of the Simon School, passed away in May 1998.

Keywords: Agency costs and theory, internal control systems, conflicts of interest, capital structure, internal equity, outside equity, demand for security analysis, completeness of markets, supply of claims, limited liability

JEL Classification: G31, G32

Suggested Citation

Jensen, Michael C. and Meckling, William H., Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure (July 1, 1976). Michael C. Jensen, A THEORY OF THE FIRM: GOVERNANCE, RESIDUAL CLAIMS AND ORGANIZATIONAL FORMS, Harvard University Press, December 2000; Journal of Financial Economics (JFE), Vol. 3, No. 4, 1976. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=94043 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.94043

Michael C. Jensen (Contact Author)

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Harvard Business School ( email )

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European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

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William H. Meckling

Simon School, University of Rochester (Deceased)

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