Optimal Penalties in Contracts
AbstractContract law's liquidated damage rules prevent enforcement of contractual damage measures that require the promisor, if it breaches, to transfer to the promisee a sum that exceeds the net gain the promisee expected to make from performance; but these rules permit the promisor to transfer less than the promisee's expectation. We define a contractual damage multiplier as any number between zero and infinity by which the promisee's expected gain -- its expectation interest -- is multiplied. Multipliers of one or less thus comply with the liquidated damage rules while multipliers that exceed one do not; the high multipliers are unenforceable penalties. This paper shows that multipliers of any size can be efficient or inefficient, depending on the parties' purposes in creating them. For example, a multiplier that exceeds one will decrease welfare if used by a seller with market power to deter entry; but will increase welfare if used by parties to induce efficient relation specific investment. As a consequence, a court should inquire, not into the size of the multiplier, but into the purpose the multiplier serves for the parties.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by EconWPA in its series Law and Economics with number 0303002.
Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 27 Mar 2003
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- K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law
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- Liu, Zhiyong & Avraham, Ronen, 2012. "Ex ante versus ex post expectation damages," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 339-355.
- Alexander, Corinne & Ivanic, Rasto & Rosch, Stephanie & Tyner, Wallace & Wu, Steven Y. & Yoder, Joshua R., 2012. "Contract theory and implications for perennial energy crop contracting," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 970-979.
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