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The Firm as an Inspector: Private Ordering and Political Rules


  • Heritier Adrienne

    (European University Institute Florence)

  • Mueller-Debus Anna K

    (European University Institute)

  • Thauer Christian R

    (European University Institute)


With increasing fragmentation of worldwide production chains and the corresponding contracting relations between companies, the firm as an inspector" has become a frequent phenomenon. Buyer firms deploy supervising activities over their suppliers' products and production processes in order to ensure their compliance with regulatory standards, thereby taking on tasks commonly performed by public authorities. Why would a firm engage in such activities? In this article we will analyze the conditions under which firms play the role of an inspector vis-à-vis their sub-contractor firms to guarantee compliance with quality and environmental regulations. We develop a theoretical argument based on transaction cost economics and institutionalism to offer hypothetical answers to this question and provide an empirical assessment of our hypotheses.

Suggested Citation

  • Heritier Adrienne & Mueller-Debus Anna K & Thauer Christian R, 2010. "The Firm as an Inspector: Private Ordering and Political Rules," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 11(4), pages 1-34, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:buspol:v:11:y:2010:i:4:n:2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jean-Jacques Laffont & Jean Tirole, 1993. "A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121743, July.
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    4. Masten, Scott E & Meehan, James W, Jr & Snyder, Edward A, 1991. "The Costs of Organization," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 1-25, Spring.
    5. Eric Brousseau & M’hand Fares, 2000. "Incomplete contracts and governance structures: are incomplete contract theory and new institutional economics substitutes or complements?," Chapters,in: Institutions, Contracts and Organizations, chapter 26 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Oxley, Joanne E., 1999. "Institutional environment and the mechanisms of governance: the impact of intellectual property protection on the structure of inter-firm alliances," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 283-309, March.
    7. Akbar Zaheer & N. Venkatraman, 1994. "Determinants of Electronic Integration in the Insurance Industry: An Empirical Test," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 40(5), pages 549-566, May.
    8. Ross, Stephen A, 1973. "The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal's Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 134-139, May.
    9. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
    10. Masten, Scott E, 1984. "The Organization of Production: Evidence from the Aerospace Industry," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 403-417, October.
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