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Specificity Revisited: The Role of Cross-Investments

Listed author(s):
  • Matthew Ellman

Previous analysis has shown that traders may opt for specific technologies with no joint productivity advantage as a way to commit themselves to trading jointly, but only when long-term contracting is infeasible. This paper proves that specificity can also be optimal (since it relaxes the budget balance constraint) in settings with long-term contracting. Traders will opt for specificity when one trader makes a cross-investment and either (1) this cross-investment has a direct externality on the other trader, (2) both parties invest or (3) private information is present. The specificity (e.g. from non-salvageable investments, specific assets and technologies, narrow business strategies, and exclusivity restrictions) is equally effective regardless of which trader's alternative trade payoff is reduced. Specificity supports long-term contracts in a broad range of settings - both with and without renegotiation. The theory also offers a novel perspective on franchising and vertical integration. Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/jleo/ewj006
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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization.

Volume (Year): 22 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 234-257

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Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:22:y:2006:i:1:p:234-257
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