Agency Theory

Whenever there is a separation of the owners (principals) and the managers (agents) of a firm, the potential exists for the wishes of the owners to be ignored. This fact, and the recognition that agents are expensive, established the basis for a set of complex but helpful ideas known as agency theory. Whenever owners (or managers) delegate decision-making authority to others, an agency relationship exists between the two parties. Agency relationships, such as those between stakeholders and managers, can be effective as long as managers make investment decisions in ways that are consistent with stakeholders’ interests. However, when the interests of managers diverge from those of owners, then managers’ decisions are more likely to reflect the managers’ preferences than the owners’ preferences.

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