DP7252 | Gathering Information before Signing a Contract: Experimental Evidence

Publication Date

05/04/2009

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Abstract

A central insight of agency theory is that when a principal offers a contract to a privately informed agent, the principal trades off ex post efficiency in the bad state of nature against a larger profit in the good state of nature. We report about an experiment with 508 participants designed to test whether this fundamental trade-off is actually relevant. In particular, we investigate settings with both exogenous and endogenous information structures. We find that theory is indeed a useful predictor for the relative magnitudes of the principals' offers, the agents' information gathering decisions, and the occurrence of ex post inefficiencies.