Discussion paper

DP14586 Intermediated Asymmetric Information, Compensation, and Career Prospects

Adverse selection harms workers, but benefits firms able to identify talent. An informed intermediary expropriates its agents’ ability by threatening to fire and expose them to undervaluation of their skill. An agent’s track record gradually reduces the intermediary’s information advantage. We show that in response, the intermediary starts churning well-performing agents she knows to be less skilled. Despite leading to an accelerated reduction in information advantage, such selectivity boosts profits as retained agents accept below-reservation wages to build a reputation faster. Agents prefer starting their careers working for an intermediary, as benefits from building reputation faster more than offsets expropriation costs. We derive implications of this mechanism for pay-for- performance sensitivity, bonuses, and turnover. Our analysis applies to professions where talent is essential, and performance is publicly observable, such as asset management, legal partnerships, and accounting firms.


Kaniel, R and D Orlov (2020), ‘DP14586 Intermediated Asymmetric Information, Compensation, and Career Prospects‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14586. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14586