[Autom. eng. transl.] In this essay we study the optimal duration of a delegation contract in a model with incomplete information in which an agent plays, on behalf of his principal, a potentially repeated game. A short-term contract gives the principal the flexibility to replace an agent who proves unsuitable for the task entrusted to him, while a long-term one favors the construction by the agent of a reputation, in his relations with third parties, of a person worthy of confidence. When contracts are renewable, the relationship between principal and agent can sometimes be stable even when it is governed by short-term contracts. In this paper we show that this implies a non-monotonous relationship between the importance of reputation and optimal duration of delegation contracts. In particular, in situations where reputation is very important, it may be optimal to use short-term contracts. The implications of the general theoretical analysis are illustrated through some applications: the problems of credibility of monetary policy, vertical relations within the company and relations between creditor and debtor.
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