Incomplete contracts versus communication

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1 Scopus citations


We consider a principal's choice between either controlling an agent's action through an incomplete contract or guiding him through non-binding communication. The principal anticipates receiving private information and must hire an agent to take an action on her behalf. Contracts can only specify a limited number of actions as a function of the state. The principal is at liberty not to specify actions for some of the states. States not covered by the contract induce a communication game. Contract clauses create gaps in the state space of the communication game, which can be used to generate distance between communication events. This relaxes incentive constraints for communication, helping enable and structure influential communication. We find that close alignment of interests favors communication and, thus, ceding authority to the agent, while strong misalignment favors reliance on contracts. In the uniform-quadratic environment, optimal contracts that induce influential communication split the communication region: there are at least two communication actions separated by contract actions. For sufficiently closely aligned interests, it is also the case that communication splits the contract region: there are at least two contract actions separated by a communication action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105544
JournalJournal of Economic Theory
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Cheap talk
  • Incomplete contracts
  • Strategic communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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