This discussion paper led to a publication in the 'International Journal of Economic Theory', 2015, 11(4), 389-404.
Since Black (1976), the source of the stock price volatility smirk has remained a controversy. The volatility smirk is a side effect of agency conflict. An important distinction is that the smirk occurs in the optimum, even after agency conflict has been resolved. The slope of the smirk is found to increase with the severity of the initial agency conflict between management and investors. It is predicted that the higher is the compensation of the manager, the steeper will be the volatility smirk, both for time series and cross sections of companies. These results may help to disentangle the leverage effect from other potential explanations like volatility feedback, the time-varying risk premium, and a down-market effect.