Delegation and Nonmonetary Incentives

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In many contracting settings, actions costly to one party but with no direct benefits to the other (money-burning) may be part of the explicit or implicit contract. A leading example is bureaucratic procedures in an employer-employee relationship. We study a model of delegation with an informed agent, where the principal may impose money-burning on the agent as a function of the agent’s choice of action, and show that money-burning may be part of the optimal contract. This result holds even if action-contingent monetary transfers are possible, as long as transfers from the principal to the agent are bounded from below (as in limited liability or minimal wage requirements). In fact, the optimal contract can involve a combination of both efficient monetary incentives and inefficient nonmonetary incentives through money burning. Our model delivers some results novel to the delegation literature. First, money-burning is more likely if the principal is more sensitive to the choice of action than the agent. This is consistent with the perception that there is more bureaucratization in large organizations. Second, money-burning is more likely if the agent’s limited liability constraint is tighter relative to his participation constraint. This implies that a higher minimum wage distorts employment contracts towards using socially wasteful nonmonetary incentives, leading to a Pareto inferior outcome as the agent is still held down to his reservation value through increased money burning.







Attila Ambrus

Professor of Economics

Professor Ambrus’ research focuses on a broad range of subjects including game theory, experimental economics, microeconomic theory, industrial organization, political economics, development economics and economic history. He has received various grants from the National Science Foundation. His most recent work has been published in the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Econometrica, and Theoretical Economics.

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