Understanding Agency Problems in Headquarters-Subsidiary Relationships in Multinational Corporations: A contextualized Model.

Tatiana Kostova, Phillip C. Nell, Anne Kristin Hoenen

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


This paper proposes an agency model for headquarters-subsidiary relationships in multinational organizations with headquarters as the principal and the subsidiary as the agent. As a departure from classical agency theory, our model is developed for the unit level of analysis and considers two root causes of the agency problem—self-interest and bounded rationality. We argue that in the organizational setting, one cannot assume absolute self-interest and perfect rationality of agents (subsidiaries) but should allow them to vary. We explain subsidiary-level variation through a set of internal organizational and external social conditions in which the headquarters-subsidiary agency dyad is embedded. We then discuss several agency scenarios reflecting various levels of self-interest and rationality that lead to different manifestations of the agency problem. The proposed framework can inform more relevant applications of the agency perspective in organizational studies and motivate future research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management (JOM)
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 509018 Knowledge management
  • 505027 Administrative studies
  • 502052 Business administration
  • 506009 Organisation theory
  • 502044 Business management
  • 507026 Economic geography

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