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What the Seller Won't Tell You: Persuasion and Disclosure in Markets

  • Paul Milgrom

Imagine that you are considering an investment in a new public offering of a firm's shares. The firm's officers make a presentation that includes an audited financial statement, an earnings forecast reviewed by its prestigious investment bankers, and an impressive demonstration of its new technology. Or suppose that you are buying a new furnace to replace an old one that is not working well. The salesman displays a chart showing that the projected total life-cycle cost of one particular model, including capital costs and fuel usage over the projected lifetime of the furnace, is lower than that of some competing models you have considered. This paper reviews the theoretical arguments about how sellers disclose information in an attempt to encourage buyers, and the potential role for regulation in encouraging efficient disclosure of information. How well does a system of private reporting work? When should we expect all the relevant information to be reported? If testing and reporting by the seller are costly, will too little testing and reporting be done? Or too much? When some information is withheld, what sort of information is withheld? How do rational buyers respond to such withholding? How are prices and welfare affected? What role is there for laws and regulations to improve the functioning of markets? We address these questions by studying the theory of persuasion games -- games in which one or more sellers provide verifiable information to buyers to influence the actions they take.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.22.2.115
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 22 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 115-131

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:22:y:2008:i:2:p:115-131
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.2.115
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  1. Rafael Porta & Florencio Lopez-De-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2006. "What Works in Securities Laws?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(1), pages 1-32, 02.
  2. Boyan Jovanovic, 1982. "Truthful Disclosure of Information," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(1), pages 36-44, Spring.
  3. Paul R. Milgrom, 1979. "Good Nevs and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Discussion Papers 407R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-83, December.
  5. Akerlof, George A, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617, November.
  6. Crawford, Vincent P & Sobel, Joel, 1982. "Strategic Information Transmission," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1431-51, November.
  7. Sanford Grossman & Oliver Hart, . "Disclosure Laws and Takeover Bids," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 23-79, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  8. Verrecchia, Robert E., 1983. "Discretionary disclosure," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 179-194, April.
  9. Hyun Song Shin, 2001. "Disclosures and Asset Returns," FMG Discussion Papers dp371, Financial Markets Group.
  10. Rubinstein, Ariel & Glazer, Jacob, 2006. "A study in the pragmatics of persuasion: a game theoretical approach," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(4), pages 395-410, December.
  11. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 1986. "Relying on the Information of Interested Parties," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 18-32, Spring.
  12. Joseph Farrell & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Cheap Talk," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 103-118, Summer.
  13. H.S. Shin, 1994. "News Management and the Value of Firms," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(1), pages 58-71, Spring.
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