Essays On The Effects Of Asymmetric Information

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It can be easily argued that most, if not all, real economic settings are asymmetric in nature. Particularly, it is often the case that one or several agents possess more or better information than the rest when agreeing upon an economic transaction. Although the information economics revolution of the 1970s laid out the majority of the theoretical foundations, the effects of asymmetric information are subtle and have not been studied in some very interesting contexts, which motivate this thesis. In the first essay, which is based on joint work with Antonio Bento and Benjamin Ho, we study the problem of an uninformed regulator who wishes to use a voluntary price instrument under varying degrees of uncertainty, specifically in the context of a carbon offset market. In this scenario, a regulator offers private land owners a contract that compensates them for producing carbon offsets while minimizing adverse selection and welfare losses. The model shows that monitoring should decrease as the uncertainty of offset quality decreases, but should increase as uncertainty over agricultural productivity increases. Also, in response to those who argue that the problem of additionality is so large that carbon offsets should not be allowed in carbon regulation, the model quantifies the amount of additionality and finds that even in the case of a regulator with no information, welfare is improved by allowing offset contracts. Finally, the model offers guidance for calculating the optimal offset price as a function of the regulator's information. The second essay consists of a cardinal tournament used by a representative firm to choose its next CEO. Candidates are managers of different types: they are heterogeneous over levels of ability and risk aversion. The managers have private information about their ability. In this context, a two-dimensional solution set of levels of ability and risk aversion corresponding to each possible mean of cash flow realization is identified. Using two different specifications (CARA preferences with normally distributed cash flows, and CRRA preferences with log-normally distributed cash flows), the trade-off between managerial ability and risk aversion is found to be characterized by a concave function. Furthermore, for better levels of technology, the relative importance of risk aversion with respect to ability increases, while for worse levels of technology, the reverse holds. Finally, in the third essay, using a model based on the optimal consumption and investment models from the operations research literature, I study how the CEO characteristics studied in Chapter 2 impact dividend policy and the longrun evolution of the firm. Specifically, when assuming CRRA preferences and a concave trade-off between ability and risk aversion, I find that the optimal dividend policy of the CEO is non-monotonic with respect to risk aversion. In other words, CEOs with a combination of both high (or low) ability and risk aversion, will pay out lower dividend yields than CEOs with a more balanced combination of ability and risk aversion. Furthermore, firm survival is a function of the dividend yield and is also non-monotonic: while the probability of firm survival converges to either zero or one as risk aversion (and, by extension, ability) converges to either zero or infinity, there exists a range for which lower investment counteracts a potentially higher dividend yield, and the resulting change in the probability of survival is ambiguous.
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2012-08-20
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Asymmetric Information; Carbon Offsets; Voluntary Markets; CEO Selection; Dividend Policy; Firm Survival
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Bento, Antonio Miguel R.
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Easley, David Alan
Ho, Benjamin T.
Degree Discipline
Economics
Degree Name
Ph. D., Economics
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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