Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

A Theory of Firm Scope

Contents:

Author Info

  • Oliver Hart
  • Bengt Holmstrom

Abstract

The existing literature on firms, based on incomplete contracts and property rights, emphasizes that the ownership of assets - and thereby firm boundaries - is determined in such a way as to encourage relationship-specific investments by the appropriate parties. It is generally accepted that this approach applies to owner-managed firms better than to large companies. In this paper, we attempt to broaden the scope of the property rights approach by developing a simple model with three key ingredients: (a) decision rights can be transferred ex ante through ownership, (b) managers (and possibly workers) enjoy private benefits that are non-transferable, and (c) owners can divert a firm's profit. In our basic model decisions are ex post non-contractible; in an extension we use the idea that contracts are reference points to relax this assumption. We show that firm boundaries matter. Nonintegrated firms fail to account for the external effects that their decisions have on other firms. An integrated firm can internalize such externalities, but it does not put enough weight on the private benefits of managers and workers. We explore this tradeoff in a model that focuses on the difficulties companies face in cooperating through the market if the benefits from cooperation are unevenly divided; therefore, they may sometimes end up merging. We show that the assumption that contracts are reference points introduces a friction that permits an analysis of delegation.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14613.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14613.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Dec 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Oliver Hart & Bengt Holmstrom, 2010. "A Theory of Firm Scope," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 483-513, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14613

Note: CF LE
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Email:
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords:

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. 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.
  2. Rey, Patrick & Dewatripont, Mathias & Aghion, Philippe, 2004. "Transferable Control," Scholarly Articles 4481511, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Jeremy C. Stein, 1995. "Internal Capital Markets and the Competition for Corporate Resources," NBER Working Papers 5101, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Brusco, Sandro & Panunzi, Fausto, 2005. "Reallocation of corporate resources and managerial incentives in internal capital markets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 659-681, April.
  5. Ricardo Alonso & Wouter Dessein & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "When Does Coordination Require Centralization?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 145-79, March.
  6. David De Meza & Ben Lockwood, 1998. "Does Asset Ownership Always Motivate Managers? Outside Options And The Property Rights Theory Of The Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 361-386, May.
  7. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2004. "On the Design of Hierarchies: Coordination versus Specialization," ESE Discussion Papers 117, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  8. Holmstrom, Bengt, 1999. "The Firm as a Subeconomy," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 74-102, April.
  9. Oliver Hart, 2009. "Hold-Up, Asset Ownership, and Reference Points-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 267-300, February.
  10. Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Scholarly Articles 3448675, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. Mathias Dewatripont, 2006. "Transferable control," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9649, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  12. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "Power In A Theory Of The Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 387-432, May.
  13. Hart, Oliver, 1995. "Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288817, September.
  14. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 2002. "Relational Contracts And The Theory Of The Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 39-84, February.
  15. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  16. Chiu, Y Stephen, 1998. "Noncooperative Bargaining, Hostages, and Optimal Asset Ownership," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 882-901, September.
  17. Julio Rotemberg & Garth Saloner, 2000. "Visionaries, Managers, and Strategic Direction," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 31(4), pages 693-716, Winter.
  18. David S. Scharfstein & Jeremy C. Stein, 1997. "The Dark Side of Internal Capital Markets: Divisional Rent-Seeking and Inefficient Investment," NBER Working Papers 5969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. 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.
  20. Roman Inderst & Christian Laux, 2005. "Incentives in Internal Capital Markets: Capital Constraints, Competition, and Investment Opportunities," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(1), pages 215-228, Spring.
  21. George J. Mailath & Volker Nocke & Andrew Postlewaite, 2002. "Business Strategy, Human Capital, and Managerial Incentives," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-018, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 23 Jun 2003.
  22. Raghuram Rajan & Henri Servaes & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Cost of Diversity: The Diversification Discount and Inefficient Investment," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(1), pages 35-80, 02.
  23. Eric Van den Steen, 2005. "Organizational Beliefs and Managerial Vision," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 256-283, April.
  24. Antoinette Schoar, 2002. "Effects of Corporate Diversification on Productivity," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(6), pages 2379-2403, December.
  25. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1994. "Benefits of Narrow Business Strategies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1330-49, December.
  26. R. H. Coase, 1972. "Industrial Organization: A Proposal for Research," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Research: Retrospect and Prospect Vol 3: Policy Issues and Research Opportunities in Industrial Organization, pages 59-73 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1999. "Informal Authority in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 56-73, April.
  28. Heikki Rantakari, 2008. "Governing Adaptation -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1257-1285.
  29. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Hoppe, Eva I. & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2009. "Can Contracts Solve the Hold-Up Problem? Experimental Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 7205, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Andrew F. Newman & Patrick Legros & Paola Conconi, 2011. "Trade Liberalization and Organizational Change," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2011-037, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  3. Giorgio Zanarone, 2012. "Coase (1937) revisited: Endogenous fiat in firms and markets," International Review of Economics, Springer, vol. 59(2), pages 201-221, July.
  4. Patrick Legros & Andrew Newman, 2013. "A Price Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/141436, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  5. Oliver D. Hart, 2011. "Noncontractible Investments and Reference Points," NBER Working Papers 16929, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Braun, Thorsten V. & Krispin, Sebastian & Lehmann, Erik E., 2010. "Entrepreneurial human capital, complementary assets, and takeover probability," UO Working Papers 03-10, University of Augsburg, Chair of Management and Organization.
  7. Dass, Nishant & Nanda, Vikram & Wang, Qinghai, 2013. "Allocation of decision rights and the investment strategy of mutual funds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(1), pages 254-277.
  8. Wallis, John Joseph, 2011. "Institutions, organizations, impersonality, and interests: The dynamics of institutions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 79(1-2), pages 48-64, June.
  9. Serfes, Konstantinos, 2013. "A Price Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration under Two-Sided Productivity Heterogeneity," School of Economics Working Paper Series 2013-6, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, revised 06 Mar 2014.
  10. Simone Moriconi, 2012. "Taxation and Incomplete Contracts," CREA Discussion Paper Series 12-08, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
  11. Bohdan Kukharskyy, 2012. "Global Sourcing if Contracts are Reference Points," Working Papers 129, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
  12. Carlo Altomonte & Armando Rungi, 2013. "Business Groups as Hierarchies of Firms: Determinants of Vertical Integration and Performance," Working Papers 2013.33, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  13. Bruce Owen, 2011. "Antitrust and Vertical Integration in “New Economy” Industries with Application to Broadband Access," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 38(4), pages 363-386, June.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14613. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.