Agency Theory

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DEFINITION of 'Agency Theory'

A supposition that explains the relationship between principals and agents in business. Agency theory is concerned with resolving problems that can exist in agency relationships; that is, between principals (such as shareholders) and agents of the principals (for example, company executives). The two problems that agency theory addresses are: 1.) the problems that arise when the desires or goals of the principal and agent are in conflict, and the principal is unable to verify (because it difficult and/or expensive to do so) what the agent is actually doing; and 2.) the problems that arise when the principal and agent have different attitudes towards risk. Because of different risk tolerances, the principal and agent may each be inclined to take different actions.

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Agency Theory'

An agency, in general terms, is the relationship between two parties, where one is a principal and the other is an agent who represents the principal in transactions with a third party. Agency relationships occur when the principals hire the agent to perform a service on the principals' behalf. Principals commonly delegate decision-making authority to the agents. Agency problems can arise because of inefficiencies and incomplete information. In finance, two important agency relationships are those between stockholders and managers, and stockholders and creditors.

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