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Marina Halac Publications

Publish Date

We study a fiscal policy model in which the government is present-biased towards public spending. Society chooses a fiscal rule to trade off the benefit of committing the government to not overspend against the benefit of granting it flexibility to react to privately observed shocks to the value of spending. Unlike prior work, we examine rules under limited enforcement: the government has full policy discretion and can only be incentivized to comply with a rule via the use of penalties which are joint and bounded. We show that optimal incentives must be bang-bang. Moreover, under a distributional condition, the optimal rule is a maximally enforced deficit limit, triggering the maximum feasible penalty whenever violated. Violation optimally occurs under high enough shocks if and only if available penalties are weak and such shocks are relatively unlikely. We derive comparative statics showing how rules should be calibrated to features of the environment.

American Economic Review

A principal incentivizes a team of agents to work by privately offering them bonuses contingent on team success. We study the principal's optimal incentive scheme that implements work as a unique equilibrium. This scheme leverages rank uncertainty to address strategic uncertainty. Each agent is informed only of a ranking distribution and his own bonus, the latter making work dominant provided that higher-rank agents work. If agents are symmetric, their bonuses are identical. Thus, discrimination is strictly suboptimal, in sharp contrast with the case of public contracts (Winter 2004). We characterize how agents' ranking and compensation vary with asymmetric effort costs.

Journal of Political Economy

A principal faces an agent who is better informed but biased toward higher actions. She can verify the agent’s information and specify his permissible actions. We show that if the verification cost is small enough, a threshold with an escape clause (TEC) is optimal: the agent either chooses an action below a threshold or requests verification and the efficient action above the threshold. For higher costs, however, the principal may require verification only for intermediate actions, dividing the delegation set. TEC is always optimal if the principal cannot commit to inefficient allocations following the verification decision and result.