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Economic and Legal Aspects of Costly Recontracting

  • Schwartz, Alan
  • Watson, Joel

This paper explores how the opportunity to recontract affects investment and trade in contractual relationships when it is assumed that renegotiation is costly. In this world, recontracting retains much of the benefit that has been ascribed to it, including the realization of any surplus that is available ex post. Costly recontracting also mitigates the well-known drawback, that parties who expect to renegotiate sometimes cannot credibly commit to invest efficiently. This is because the attractiveness of renegotiation decreases in recontracting costs. We show that the optimal contracting environment often involves moderate recontracting costs, which balance the beneficial and detrimental effects of renegotiation. Our result stands in contrast to those derived in common models that assume unrealistically either that recontracting costs are zero or that they are infinite. We discuss implications for the design of legal institutions, governance systems, and contractual form.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC San Diego in its series University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt4jr3g3h7.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsdec:qt4jr3g3h7
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  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1985. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," Working papers 367, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
  3. Hermalin, Benjamin E. & Katz, Michael L., 1990. "Moral Hazard and Verifiability: The Effects of Renegotiation in Agency," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt1678w3w9, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  4. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
  5. Georg Nöldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1992. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation - A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Discussion Paper Serie A 417, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Aug 1993.
  6. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
  7. Chung, Tai-Yeong, 1991. "Incomplete Contracts, Specific Investments, and Risk Sharing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(5), pages 1031-42, October.
  8. Joel S. Demski & David E.M. Sappington, 1991. "Resolving Double Moral Hazard Problems with Buyout Agreements," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(2), pages 232-240, Summer.
  9. Grout, Paul A, 1984. "Investment and Wages in the Absence of Binding Contracts: A Nash Bargining Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 449-60, March.
  10. Jolls, Christine, 1997. "Contracts as Bilateral Commitments: A New Perspective on Contract Modification," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 203-37, January.
  11. Huberman, Gur & Kahn, Charles M, 1988. "Limited Contract Enforcement and Strategic Renegotiation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 471-84, June.
  12. Jean Tirole, 1999. "Incomplete Contracts: Where Do We Stand?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 741-782, July.
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