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Incentive Contracts with Enforcement Costs


  • Katherine Doornik


Legal enforcement of contracts is expensive and therefore parties will typically negotiate to avoid these costs. However, if negotiation takes place under asymmetric information, enforcement will occur in some states. We study a simple principal-agent model with risk neutrality and limited liability and assume costly, nonautomatic enforcement and private information by the principal. We show that the form of the contract systematically affects the likelihood of proceeding to court. In order to reduce the probability of enforcement, an optimal incentive contract must be one step. In addition, the principal may leave the agent with some surplus and effort will typically deviate from the productively efficient level. (JEL D82, D86, K40) The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Yale University. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine Doornik, 2010. "Incentive Contracts with Enforcement Costs," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(1), pages 115-143, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:26:y:2010:i:1:p:115-143

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mishra, Ajit, 2002. "Hierarchies, incentives and collusion in a model of enforcement," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 165-178, February.
    2. Hindriks, Jean & Keen, Michael & Muthoo, Abhinay, 1999. "Corruption, extortion and evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 395-430, December.
    3. Kugler, Maurice & Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2005. "Organized crime, corruption and punishment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1639-1663, September.
    4. Kessler, Anke S., 2000. "On Monitoring and Collusion in Hierarchies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 280-291, April.
    5. Paolo Mauro, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elisabetta Iossa & Giancarlo Spagnolo, 2008. "Contracts as Threats: on a Rationale For Rewarding A while Hoping For B," EIEF Working Papers Series 1022, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Dec 2010.
    2. Decio Coviello & Luigi Moretti & Giancarlo Spagnolo & Paola Valbonesi, 2013. "Court Efficiency and Procurement Performance," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0164, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    3. David Martimort & Aggey Semenov & Lars Stole, 2017. "A Theory of Contracts with Limited Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(2), pages 816-852.
    4. Guillaume Roger, 2016. "A Revelation Mechanism for Soft Information under Moral Hazard," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 18(5), pages 752-763, October.
    5. Guillaume Roger, 2013. "Moral Hazard with Discrete Soft Information," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89(287), pages 545-555, December.
    6. Ola Kvaløy & Trond E. Olsen, 2016. "Incentive Provision when Contracting is Costly," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(332), pages 741-767, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General


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