Dynamic Security Design

Bruno Biais
Thomas Mariotti
Guillaume Plantin
Jean-Charles Rochet
Sat, Jul 1, 2006
UBC, Vancouver, Canada
Summer School Frontiers in Mathematics and Economics

An entrepreneur with limited liability needs to finance an infinite horizon investment
project. An agency problem arises because she can divert operating cash-flows before
reporting them to the financiers. We first study the optimal contract in discrete time. This contract can be implemented by cash reserves, debt and equity. The latter is split between the financiers and the entrepreneur, and pays dividends when retained earnings reach a threshold. To provide appropriate incentives to the entrepreneur, the firm is downsized when it runs short of cash. We then study the continuous-time limit of the model. We prove the convergence of the discrete-time value functions and optimal contracts. Our analysis yields rich implications for the dynamics of security prices. Stock prices follow a diffusion reflected at the dividend barrier and absorbed at zero. Their volatility, as well as the leverage ratio of the firm, increase after bad performance. Stock prices and book-to-market ratios are in a non-monotonic relationship. A more severe agency problem entails lower price earning ratios and firm liquidity, and higher default risk.