Employee Stock Options
An entrepreneur with information about firm quality seeks financing from an uninformed investor in order to pay a worker. I show that if the worker, too, knows the true quality of the firm, then certain long term wage agreements can credibly signal firm quality. Such wage agreements have a low initial wage and are equity-like in the sense that future pay is tied to firm performance, because only a worker in a good quality firm would be willing to defer compensation to an uncertain future, getting paid only if the firm succeeds. Moreover, in an important pooling equilibrium, all firms use equity-like wage contracts. The model provides an economic rationale for the use of stock options among regular, non-executive employees, in particular in small, knowledge intensive firms (such as in the ”new economy”) where workers are more likely to have information about the true quality of the firm.