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Agency Costs


Agency costs are expenses associated with resolving conflicts of interests between a company’s management and its shareholders. These costs may arise from actions of managers that do not align with the objectives of shareholders. These costs can include monitoring expenses, bonding costs, and residual losses.


The phonetics of “Agency Costs” is: /ˈeɪdʒənsi kɒsts/

Key Takeaways

  1. Agency Costs are Inevitable in Business : Agency costs are a type of internal company expense that occurs from the relationships between stakeholders and the agents who manage organizations on their behalf. They are considered almost unavoidable in most businesses, especially in firms where the management and ownership are different.
  2. It is a Result of Conflict of Interests: Agency costs can arise due to conflicts of interest between managers (agents) and shareholders (principals). Often, managers may take actions that benefit themselves at the potential expense of the shareholders. These actions can lead to agency costs in an attempt to monitor, control and align the principals’ and agents’ interests.
  3. Managing Agency Costs: Effective monitoring, incentive agreements, and restrictions could help mitigate agency costs. When agents’ interests align with those of the principals, it reduces agency costs. A balance between risk and returns is also key in minimizing these costs. However, it’s essential to note that extreme measures to control agency costs may cause more harm than good, potentially stifring creativity and innovation in the process.


Agency costs are important in business and finance because they represent the costs associated with the potential conflicts of interest that may arise between different parties in a business relationship, specifically between shareholders (principals) and management (agents). These costs can include expenses from monitoring management’s activities, management compensation, or even losses incurred due to management pursuing its own interests at the expense of shareholders. Recognizing and managing agency costs are essential for ensuring that the business is being run in a way that aligns with shareholders’ interests. They are a key consideration in corporate governance and can ultimately influence the financial performance and value of a business.


Agency costs are an essential concept in finance and business used to manage and understand the relationships and complications that may arise within a corporation’s framework. Essentially, agency costs represent the cost of conflicts of interest between stakeholders and those responsible for the management of firms, often referred to as “agents.” When company owners (principals) hire others (agents) to perform tasks on their behalf, they give them decision-making authority. The purpose of recognizing agency costs is to ensure that agents act in the best interest of principals, considering that they might have different goals or preferences which may result in conflicts.One of the primary uses of the concept of agency costs is in the field of corporate governance, where it helps to structure contracts and incentives to align the interests of owners and managers. This usually involves monitoring systems and incentive plans to ensure that the agents are carrying out their duties faithfully and efficiently. Agency costs can take on various forms, including direct costs such as management salaries, or indirect costs like the opportunity cost of a lost opportunity due to the agent’s decisions. By monitoring and managing agency costs, firms aim to minimize inefficiencies and maximize value for their shareholders.


1. Management Spending on Extravagant Office Spaces: A prime example of agency costs can be found in the case of managers spending company funds on extravagant office spaces, private jets, or excessive staff outings. While these expenditures might improve the personal comfort of the managers, they do not necessarily add value to the company or benefit the shareholders. This can lead to agency cost because shareholders may have to bear additional expenses to monitor the actions of the managers or even enforce contracts to ensure assets are not incorrectly used.2. Investment Decisions: If a manager, seeking to build his reputation, decides to undertake a risky project with the company’s funds, it can present an agency cost. The manager may believe that the project can boost his profile if it succeeds, but if it fails, it could lead to substantial losses for shareholders. 3. Debt Financing: Sometimes managers opt for debt financing over equity even if its cost is higher. The reason for such a decision could be that a higher debt ratio can decrease the likelihood of the firm being acquired, thereby securing their job. This decision protects the interests of the managers at shareholders’ expense and thereby, leads to agency costs. For shareholders, this means lower returns because a part of the company’s profit will go into paying interest on the borrowed money rather than dividends.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are Agency Costs?

Agency Costs are a type of internal company expense that comes from the operations and management changes caused by the divergence in interests between a firm’s stakeholders, such as shareholders (principals) and managers (agents).

How are Agency Costs categorized?

Agency Costs are typically categorized into two types: monitoring costs and bonding costs. Monitoring costs are incurred by principals to ensure agents are running the business efficiently while bonding costs relate to the efforts of the agents to show they are trustworthy.

What is an example of Agency Costs?

An example of Agency Costs can be a company’s board of directors seeking audited financial reports to monitor the activities and performance of senior management, where the cost of auditing becomes an agency cost associated with monitoring.

How are Agency Costs minimized?

Agency Costs can be minimized by aligning the interests of the managers with the shareholders. This can be achieved by offering managerial compensations connected to the company’s performance, like stock options and bonuses based on returns to shareholders.

How do Agency Costs affect a company’s value?

High Agency Costs can negatively impact a company’s value as they represent internal inefficiencies. Minimizing these costs can lead to more productive use of company resources thereby potentially increasing its overall value.

Can Agency Costs be entirely eliminated?

It’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate Agency Costs due to the inherent nature of the principal-agent relationship. However, implementing good governance practices and offering performance-based incentives to managers can significantly reduce these costs.

What is the Agency Theory?

The Agency Theory is a principle used to understand the relationship between the principals (such as shareholders) and agents (such as managers). It addresses the agency costs arising from conflicts of interest in this relationship.

Are Agency Costs only present in large corporations?

No, Agency Costs can be present in any business regardless of its size. Any situation where management decisions might go against the best interests of the shareholders can lead to Agency Costs.

How does the Agency Theory help in managing Agency Costs?

The Agency Theory, when properly applied, helps in setting up effective mechanisms for monitoring and controlling agent behavior, thus helping in managing and reducing Agency Costs.

: What role do shareholders play in reducing Agency Costs?

Shareholders can reduce Agency Costs by actively participating in company matters via voting, monitoring management’s performance, and demanding greater transparency and accountability.

Related Finance Terms

  • Principal-Agent Relationship
  • Monitoring Costs
  • Bonding Expenditures
  • Residual Loss
  • Moral Hazard

Sources for More Information

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