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Combinatorial agency

Moshe Babaioff, Michal Feldman, Noam Nisan and Eyal Winter ()

Journal of Economic Theory, 2012, vol. 147, issue 3, 999-1034

Abstract: We study a combinatorial variant of the classical principal-agent model. In our setting a principal wishes to incentivize a team of strategic agents to exert costly effort on his behalf. Agentsʼ actions are hidden and the principal observes only the outcome of the team, which depends stochastically on the complex combinations of the efforts by the agents. The principal seeks the mechanism that maximizes the principalʼs net revenue given an equilibrium behavior of the agents. We investigate the structure of the optimal mechanism for various production technologies as the principalʼs value from the project varies. In doing so we quantify the gap between the first-best and second-best solutions. Our results highlight the qualitative and quantitative differences between production technologies that exhibit complementarities and substitutabilities between the agentsʼ actions. In comparing the first best with the second best we highlight the role of effort monitoring by the principal. As we shall see, the benefit from monitoring crucially depends on the underlying technology, with the two polar cases being perfect substitution and perfect complementarity.

Keywords: Agency theory; Incentives; Contracts; Hidden-action; Moral hazard (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C72 D82 D86 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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