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Formal Contracts, Relational Contracts, and the Holdup Problem

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Author Info

  • Hideshi Itoh
  • Hodaka Morita

Abstract

We study the holdup problem in repeated transactions between a seller and a buyer such that the seller makes relation-specific investments in each period. We show that where, under spot transaction, formal contracts have no value because of the cooperative nature of investment, writing a simple fixed-price contract can be valuable under repeated transactions: There is a range of parameter values in which a higher investment can be implemented only if a formal price contract is written and combined with a relational contract. We also show that there are cases in which not writing a formal contract but entirely relying on a relational contract increases the total surplus of the buyer and the seller. The key condition is how the investment affects the renegotiation price in general, and the alternative-use value in particular.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2006/wp-cesifo-2006-08/cesifo1_wp1786.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1786.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1786

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Related research

Keywords: holdup problem; formal contract; relational contract; cooperative investment; fixed-price contract; relation-specific investment; renegotiation; repeated transactions; long-term relationships;

References

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  1. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
  2. Michael D. Ryall & Rachelle C. Sampson, 2009. "Formal Contracts in the Presence of Relational Enforcement Mechanisms: Evidence from Technology Development Projects," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(6), pages 906-925, June.
  3. Asanuma, Banri, 1989. "Manufacturer-supplier relationships in Japan and the concept of relation-specific skill," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 1-30, March.
  4. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "The Cost and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," CEPR Discussion Papers 70, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. F. Gul, 2000. "Unobservable Investment and the Hold-Up Problem," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 00s10, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  6. Cai, Hongbin, 2003. " A Theory of Joint Asset Ownership," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(1), pages 63-77, Spring.
  7. Jonathan Levin, 2000. "Relational Incentive Contracts," Working Papers 01002, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  8. Edlin, Aaron S & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1996. "Holdups, Standard Breach Remedies, and Optimal Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 478-501, June.
  9. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  10. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2000. "Reputation Effects And The Limits Of Contracting: A Study Of The Indian Software Industry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 989-1017, August.
  11. Bengt Holmstrom & John Roberts, 1998. "The Boundaries of the Firm Revisited," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 73-94, Fall.
  12. Maija Halonen, 2002. "Reputation And The Allocation Of Ownership," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 539-558, July.
  13. Coase, R H, 1988. "The Nature of the Firm: Influence," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 33-47, Spring.
  14. Shelanski, Howard A & Klein, Peter G, 1995. "Empirical Research in Transaction Cost Economics: A Review and Assessment," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 335-61, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Oliver Gürtler, 2005. "On Delegation under Relational Contracts," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse32_2005, University of Bonn, Germany.
  2. Sloof, Randolph & Sonnemans, Joep, 2011. "The interaction between explicit and relational incentives: An experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 573-594.
  3. Hideshi Itoh, 2006. "The Theories of International Outsourcing and Integration : A Theoretical Overview from the Perspective of Organizational Economics," Microeconomics Working Papers 21891, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  4. Gürtler, Oliver, 2006. "On Delegation under Relational Contracts," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 113, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  5. Shingo Ishiguro, 2011. "Relationships and Growth," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 11-31, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).
  6. James M. Malcomson, 2012. "Relational Incentive Contracts
    [The Handbook of Organizational Economics]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  7. Thiele, Veikko, 2007. "The Demand for Tailored Goods and the Theory of the Firm," MPRA Paper 2471, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Michael D. Ryall & Rachelle C. Sampson, 2009. "Formal Contracts in the Presence of Relational Enforcement Mechanisms: Evidence from Technology Development Projects," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(6), pages 906-925, June.
  9. Hueth, Brent & Ligon, Ethan & Melkonyan, Tigran A., 2008. "Interactions between Explicit and Implicit Contracting: Evidence from California Agriculture," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6068, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  10. Shingo Ishiguro, 2011. "Relationships and Growth," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 11-31-Rev, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP), revised May 2013.
  11. Berardi, Nicoletta & Seabright, Paul, 2010. "Joint Ventures as a Commitment Device Against Lobbies," CEPR Discussion Papers 7714, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Michi NISHIHARA & Takashi SHIBATA, 2013. "Preemption, leverage, and financing constraints," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 13-05, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).

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