ABSTRACT In this article we develop a multiperiod agency model to study the role of leading indicator variables in managerial performance measures. In addition to the familiar moral hazard problem, the principal faces the task of motivating a manager to undertake “soft” investments. These investments are not directly contractible, but the principal can instead rely on leading indicator variables that provide a noisy forecast of the investment returns to be received in future periods. Our analysis relates the role of leading indicator variables to the duration of the manager's incentive contract. With short‐term contracts, leading indicator variables are essential in mitigating a holdup problem resulting from the fact that investments are sunk at the end of the first period. With long‐term contracts, leading indicator variables will be valuable if the manager's compensation schemes are not stationary over time. The leading indicator variables then become an instrument for matching the future investment return with the current investment expenditure. We identify conditions under which the optimal long‐term contract induces larger investments and less reliance on the leading indicator variables as compared with short‐term contracts. Under certain conditions, though, the principal does better with a sequence of one‐period contracts than with a long‐term contract.
Journal of Accounting Research – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 2003
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