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Contractual incompleteness as a signal of trust

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  • Herold, Florian

Abstract

This paper shows how the fear of signaling distrust can endogenously lead to incomplete contractual agreements. We consider a principal agent relationship where the agent may be trustworthy (dedicated to the project) or not. The principal may trust the agent (i.e. have a high belief of facing a trustworthy agent), or distrust him. The proposal of a complete contract, including fines and other explicit incentives, is shown to signal distrust. When trust is important in some non-contractible part of the relationship, a principal may prefer to leave the contract incomplete rather than to signal distrust by proposing a complete contract. Contractual incompleteness arises endogenously due to asymmetric information about how much one partner trusts the other side.

Suggested Citation

  • Herold, Florian, 2010. "Contractual incompleteness as a signal of trust," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 180-191, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:68:y:2010:i:1:p:180-191
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Friebel, Guido & Schnedler, Wendelin, 2011. "Team governance: Empowerment or hierarchical control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 1-13, April.
    2. Bierbrauer, Felix & Netzer, Nick, 2016. "Mechanism design and intentions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 557-603.
    3. Joseph Lanfranchi & Mathieu Narcy, 2012. "Effort and Monetary Incentives in Nonprofit and For-Profit Organizations," Working Papers halshs-00856261, HAL.
    4. von Siemens, Ferdinand A., 2013. "Intention-based reciprocity and the hidden costs of control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 55-65.
    5. Gürtler, Marc & Gürtler, Oliver, 2014. "The interaction of explicit and implicit contracts: A signaling approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 135-146.
    6. Silvia Dominguez-Martinez & Randolph Sloof & Ferdinand von Siemens, 2010. "Monitoring your Friends, not your Foes: Strategic Ignorance and the Delegation of Real Authority," CESifo Working Paper Series 3172, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Schnedler, Wendelin & Vanberg, Christoph, 2014. "Playing ‘hard to get’: An economic rationale for crowding out of intrinsically motivated behavior," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 106-115.
    8. Dominguez-Martinez, Silvia & Sloof, Randolph & von Siemens, Ferdinand A., 2014. "Monitored by your friends, not your foes: Strategic ignorance and the delegation of real authority," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 289-305.
    9. Bengtsson, Niklas & Engström, Per, 2011. "Control and Efficiency in the Nonprofit Sector Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment," Working Paper Series 2011:8, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    10. 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.

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