DP3200 | Price Regulation, Investment and the Commitment Problem

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We consider a dynamic model of price regulation with asymmetric information where strategic delegation is available to the regulator. Firms can sink non- contractible, cost-reducing investment but regulators cannot commit to future price levels. We fully characterize the Perfect Bayesian equilibria and show that, with incentive contracts but without delegation, under- and over-investment can occur. We then show that delegation to a suitable regulator can both improve investment incentives and ameliorate the ratchet effect by credibly offering the firm future rent. Simulations indicate significant welfare gains from these two effects and that a wide range of regulatory preferences can achieve this result.