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Reference Points, Social Norms, And Fairness In Contract Renegotiations

Listed author(s):
  • Björn Bartling
  • Klaus M. Schmidt
Registered author(s):

    How does an ex-ante contract affect behavior in an ex-post renegotiation game? We address this question in a canonical buyer–seller relationship with renegotiation. Our paper provides causal experimental evidence that an initial contract has a highly significant and economically important impact on renegotiation behavior that goes beyond the effect of contracts on bargaining threat points. We compare situations in which an initial contract is renegotiated to strategically equivalent bargaining situations in which no ex-ante contract was written. The ex-ante contract causes sellers to ask for markups that are 45% lower than in strategically equivalent bargaining situations without an initial contract. Moreover, buyers are more likely to reject given markups in renegotiations than in negotiations. These effects do not depend on whether the contract was written under competitive or monopolistic conditions. Our results provide strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that contracts serve as reference points that shape and coordinate the expectations of the contracting parties.

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/jeea.12109
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    Article provided by European Economic Association in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

    Volume (Year): 13 (2015)
    Issue (Month): 1 (02)
    Pages: 98-129

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:13:y:2015:i:1:p:98-129
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    1. Hart, Oliver D & Moore, John, 1988. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 755-785, July.
    2. Botond Kőszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2006. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1133-1165.
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    6. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "Contracts as reference points � experimental evidence," IEW - Working Papers 393, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    7. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2011. "Contracts as Reference Points--Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 493-525, April.
    8. David K. Levine, 1998. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 593-622, July.
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    11. Hoppe, Eva I. & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2011. "Can contracts solve the hold-up problem? Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 186-199, September.
    12. Maija Halonen-Akatwijuka & Oliver D. Hart, 2013. "More is Less: Why Parties May Deliberately Write Incomplete Contracts," NBER Working Papers 19001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    14. Mathias Erlei & Christian Reinhold, 2012. "To Choose or Not to Choose: Contracts, Reference Points, Reciprocity, and Signaling," TUC Working Papers in Economics 0007, Abteilung für Volkswirtschaftslehre, Technische Universität Clausthal (Department of Economics, Technical University Clausthal).
    15. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2009. "Contracts, Reference Points, and Competition-Behavioral Effects of The Fundamental Transformation," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 561-572, 04-05.
    16. Oliver Hart, 2009. "Hold-up, Asset Ownership, and Reference Points," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 267-300.
    17. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
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