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Agency Costs

Agency Costs

What Are Agency Costs?

An agency cost is a type of internal company expense, which comes from the actions of an agent acting for the benefit of a principal. Agency costs commonly emerge in the wake of core shortcomings, dissatisfactions, and disturbances, for example, conflicts of interest among shareholders and management. The payment of the agency cost is to the acting agent.

Understanding Agency Cost

Agency costs can happen when the interests of the executive management of a corporation conflict with its shareholders. Shareholders might maintain that management should run the company in a certain way, which increments shareholder value.

Alternately, the management might hope to develop the company in alternate ways, which may possibly run counter to the shareholders' best interests. Subsequently, the shareholders would experience agency costs.

As soon as 1932, American financial specialists Gardiner Coit Means and Adolf Augustus Berle examined corporate governance in terms of an "agent" and a "principal," in applying these principals towards the development of large corporations, where the interests of the directors and managers contrasted from those of owners.

Principal-Agent Relationship

The restricting party dynamic is called the principal-agent relationship, which essentially alludes to the relationships among shareholders and management personnel. In this scenario, the shareholders are principals, and the management agents act as agents.

Notwithstanding, the principal-agent relationship may likewise allude to different pairs of associated parties with comparable power characteristics. For instance, the relationship between legislators (the agents), and the voters (the principals) can bring about agency costs. Assuming the government officials vow to make certain legislative moves while running for election and once chose, don't satisfy those commitments, the voters experience agency costs. In an extension of the principal-agent dynamic known as the "numerous principal issues" portrays a scenario where a person acts for a group of others.

A Closer Look at Agency Costs

Agency costs incorporate any fees associated with dealing with the requirements of conflicting gatherings, during the time spent assessing and settling debates. This cost is otherwise called agency risk. Agency costs are important expenses inside any organization where the principals don't yield complete autonomous power.

Due to their inability to operate such that benefits the agents working under them, it can at last negatively impact their profitability. These costs likewise allude to economic incentives, for example, performance bonuses, stock options, and different carrots, which would animate agents to appropriately execute their duties. The agent's purpose is to assist a company with flourishing, consequently adjusting the interests, everything being equal.

Disappointed Shareholders

Shareholders who can't help contradicting where management takes, might be less disposed to hold on to the company's stock over the long term. Likewise, on the off chance that a specific action sets off an adequate number of shareholders to sell their shares, a mass sell-off could occur, bringing about a decline in the stock price. Thus, companies have a financial interest in helping shareholders and working on the company's financial position, as neglecting to do so could bring about stock prices dropping.

Moreover, a huge cleanse of shares might actually frighten possible new investors from taking positions, subsequently causing a chain reaction, which could push down stock prices even further.

In situations where the shareholders become especially distressed with the actions of a company's VIP, an endeavor to choose various individuals for the board of directors might happen. The ouster of the existing management can occur assuming that shareholders vote to select new individuals to the board. Besides the fact that this jostling action result in can critical financial costs, however it can likewise bring about the expenditure of time and mental resources.

Such disturbances additionally cause horrendous and excessive administrative noise issues, inherent in top-chain recalibration of power.

True Example of Agency Costs

The absolute most famous instances of agency risks come during financial embarrassments, for example, the Enron disaster in 2001. As reported in this article on, the company's board of directors and senior officers sold off their stock shares at higher prices, due to fraudulent accounting data, which falsely swelled the stock's value. Accordingly, shareholders lost huge money, when Enron share price subsequently plunged.

Broken down to its easiest terms, as per the Journal of Accountancy, the Enron fiasco happened due to "individual and collective greed brought into the world in an air of market rapture and corporate haughtiness."


  • Core shortcomings, dissatisfactions, and disturbances add to agency costs.
  • Agency costs that incorporate fees associated with dealing with the requirements of conflicting gatherings are called agency risk.
  • An agent-principal relationship exists between a company's management (agent) and its shareholders (principal).
  • An agency cost is an internal expense that comes from an agent making a move for the benefit of a principal.