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Should Courts Always Enforce What Contracting Parties Write?

Author

Listed:
  • Anderlini Luca

    (Georgetown University)

  • Felli Leonardo

    (London School of Economics)

  • Postlewaite Andrew

    (University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

We find an economic rationale for the common sense answer to the question in our title – courts (that maximize parties’ welfare under a veil of ignorance) should not always enforce what the contracting parties write. Courts can improve on the outcome that the parties would achieve without their intervention. We study a buyer-seller model with risk-neutral agents and asymmetric information. The court must decide when to uphold a contract and when to void it. The parties know their private information at the time of contracting, and this drives a wedge between ex-ante and interim-efficient contracts. In particular, if the court enforces all contracts, inefficient pooling obtains in equilibrium. By voiding some contracts the court is able to induce them to separate, and hence improve ex-ante welfare. Our results can also be interpreted as supporting the normative case for mandatory rules in contract law.

Suggested Citation

  • Anderlini Luca & Felli Leonardo & Postlewaite Andrew, 2011. "Should Courts Always Enforce What Contracting Parties Write?," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 14-28, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:rlecon:v:7:y:2011:i:1:n:2
    DOI: 10.2202/1555-5879.1492
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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Felli & Alessandro Riboni & Luca Anderlini, 2007. "Statute Law or Case Law?," 2007 Meeting Papers 952, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Anderlini Luca & Felli Leonardo & Postlewaite Andrew, 2011. "Should Courts Always Enforce What Contracting Parties Write?," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 14-28, February.
    3. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli & Alessandro Riboni, 2014. "Why Stare Decisis?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(4), pages 726-738, October.
    4. Dana Heller & Ran Spiegler, 2008. "Contradiction as a form of Contractual Incompleteness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(530), pages 875-888, July.
    5. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli & Andrew Postlewaite, 2013. "Active courts and menu contracts," Chapters, in: Thomas J. Miceli & Matthew J. Baker (ed.), Research Handbook on Economic Models of Law, chapter 13, pages 281-307, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Andrew Postlewaite, 2007. "Courts of Law and Unforeseen Contingencies," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(3), pages 662-684, October.
    7. Yaron Leitner, 2005. "Legal uncertainty and contractual innovation," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q2, pages 26-32.
    8. Fares, M’hand, 2005. "Quels fondements à l’incomplétude des contrats?," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 81(3), pages 535-555, Septembre.
    9. Francesco D'Acunto & Jin Xie & Jiaquan Yao, 2020. "Trust and Contracts: Empirical Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 8714, CESifo.
    10. Benjamin Bental & Bruno Deffains & Dominique Demougin, 2020. "Interpreting contracts: the purposive approach and non-comprehensive incentive contracts," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 241-265, October.
    11. MacKenzie, Ian A. & Ohndorf, Markus, 2013. "Restricted Coasean bargaining," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 296-307.
    12. Giovanni Maggi & Robert W. Staiger, 2008. "On the Role and Design of Dispute Settlement Procedures in International Trade Agreements," NBER Working Papers 14067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Mitchell Berlin & Yaron Leitner, 2005. "Courts and contractual innovation: a preliminary analysis," Working Papers 05-27, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    14. Madhav S. Aney, 2012. "Conflict with Quitting Rights: A Mechanism Design Approach," Working Papers 18-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    15. repec:dau:papers:123456789/7720 is not listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C79 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Other
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • D89 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Other
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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