Full-cost transfer pricing has been criticized for providing production units with insufficient incentives to economize. Our empirical study based on data from a large producer of consumer goods shows that charging full-cost transfer prices to downstream sales units can send upstream production units into a death spiral. However, our results also suggest that production units reduce costs to prevent the death spiral. We observe that managers focus their cost-cutting efforts on unit variable costs and on products with the best sales prospects. These results also suggest that, when production units are at risk of falling into a death spiral, full-cost transfer pricing can serve as a credible commitment device to motivate managers to reduce costs.
JEL Classifications: D24; M31; M41; M50.
Data Availability: We were given the opportunity to work with a company's proprietary database that contains sensitive and classified data that cannot be disclosed due to a non-disclosure agreement. At the start of our research, the company agreed to be referred to as Carepro, which is fictitious and does not correspond to any other existing company with that same or a similar name.