Gathering Information Before Signing a Contract: Experimental Evidence
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.