Responsibility Centers, Decision Rights, and Synergies

The Accounting Review, Volume 95(2)

56 Pages Posted: 15 May 2018 Last revised: 2 Nov 2020

See all articles by Tim Baldenius

Tim Baldenius

Columbia Buiness School

Beatrice Michaeli

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Date Written: March 24, 2017


We consider the optimal allocation of decision rights over noncontractible specific investments. Risk-averse business unit managers each engage in general (stand-alone) operations and invest in joint projects that benefit their own and other divisions. Which of the managers should have the authority to choose these investments? With scalable investments, we show that decision rights should be bundled in the hands of the manager facing the more volatile environment. With discrete (lumpy) investments, on the other hand, decision rights should be split between the managers, provided they face comparable levels of uncertainty in their general operations. Splitting decision rights better leverages the inherent investment complementarity, counter to conventional wisdom. Our model generates empirical predictions for the equilibrium association of organizational structure and managers' incentive contracts: bundling of decision rights results in pay-performance sensitivity (PPS) divergence across divisions; splitting them results in PPS convergence.

Keywords: responsibility centers, task allocation, pay-performance sensitivity, investments, risk

JEL Classification: M41, D23, D86

Suggested Citation

Baldenius, Tim and Michaeli, Beatrice, Responsibility Centers, Decision Rights, and Synergies (March 24, 2017). The Accounting Review, Volume 95(2), Available at SSRN: or

Tim Baldenius

Columbia Buiness School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Beatrice Michaeli (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

D410 Anderson Complex
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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