The Principal–Agent Problem in Finance

Research Foundation Reviews
2014 | Vol. 9 | No. 1 | 55 pages
Source: CFA Institute Research Foundation
Sunit N. Shah



The relationship between a principal and the agent who acts on the principal’s behalf contains the potential for conflicts of interest. The principal–agent problem arises when this relationship involves both misaligned incentives and information asymmetry. In asset management, factors contributing to the principal–agent problem include managers’ compensation structures and investors’ tendency to focus on short-term performance. In the banking industry, myriad principal–agent relationships and complex instruments provide a fertile breeding ground for incentive conflicts, many of which were highlighted by the recent financial crisis.

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