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Continuing Contracts

Listed author(s):
  • Maija Halonen-Akatwijuka
  • Oliver Hart

Parties often regulate their relationships through “continuing” contracts that are neither long-term nor short-term but usually roll over: a leading example is a standard employment contract. We argue that what distinguishes a continuing contract from a short-term (or fixed-term) contract is that parties apply notions of fairness, fair dealing, and good faith as they revise the terms of the contract: specifically, they use the previous contract as a reference point. We show that a continuing contract can reduce (re)negotiation costs relative to a short-term or long-term contract when there is uncertainty about future gains from trade. However, fair dealing may limit the use of outside options in bargaining and as a result parties will sometimes fail to trade when this is efficient. For-cause contracts, where termination can occur only for a good reason, can reduce this inefficiency.

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File URL: http://www.efm.bris.ac.uk/economics/working_papers/pdffiles/dp15665.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK in its series Bristol Economics Discussion Papers with number 15/665.

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Length: 33 pages.
Date of creation: 26 Aug 2015
Date of revision: 12 Oct 2016
Handle: RePEc:bri:uobdis:15/665
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  1. Francine Lafontaine & Kathryn L. Shaw, 1999. "The Dynamics of Franchise Contracting: Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(5), pages 1041-1080, October.
  2. Rajkamal Iyer & Antoinette Schoar, 2015. "Ex Post (In) Efficient Negotiation and Breakdown of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 291-294, May.
  3. Joskow, Paul L, 1988. "Price Adjustment in Long-term Contracts: The Case of Coal," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 47-83, April.
  4. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 1-48.
  5. Paul Oyer, 2004. "Why Do Firms Use Incentives That Have No Incentive Effects?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(4), pages 1619-1650, 08.
  6. Malcolm Kass & Enrique Fatas & Catherine Eckel & Daniel Arce, 2015. "The UN in the lab," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 45(3), pages 625-651, October.
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  8. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "Contracts as reference points � experimental evidence," IEW - Working Papers 393, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2011. "Contracts as Reference Points--Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 493-525, April.
  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.
  11. Scott E. Masten, 2009. "Long-Term Contracts and Short-Term Commitment: Price Determination for Heterogeneous Freight Transactions," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 79-111.
  12. Sergei Guriev & Dmitriy Kvasov, 2005. "Contracting on Time," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1369-1385, December.
  13. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2015. "How Do Informal Agreements And Revision Shape Contractual Reference Points?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 1-28, 02.
  14. Douglas W. Diamond, 1991. "Debt Maturity Structure and Liquidity Risk," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(3), pages 709-737.
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  16. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
  17. Ilya Segal, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82.
  18. Pirrong, Stephen Craig, 1993. "Contracting Practices in Bulk Shipping Markets: A Transactions Cost Explanation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 937-976, October.
  19. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-741, September.
  20. Joskow, Paul L, 1987. "Contract Duration and Relationship-Specific Investments: Empirical Evidence from Coal Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 168-185, March.
  21. Oriana Bandiera, 2007. "Contract Duration and Investment Incentives: Evidence from Land Tenancy Agreements," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(5), pages 953-986, 09.
  22. Keith J. Crocker & Scott E. Masten, 1988. "Mitigating Contractual Hazards: Unilateral Options and Contract Length," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 19(3), pages 327-343, Autumn.
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