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Formal Contracts, Relational Contracts, and the Holdup Problem

  • Hideshi Itoh
  • Hodaka Morita

We study the holdup problem in repeated transactions between a seller and a buyer such that the seller makes relation-specific investments in each period. We show that where, under spot transaction, formal contracts have no value because of the cooperative nature of investment, writing a simple fixed-price contract can be valuable under repeated transactions: There is a range of parameter values in which a higher investment can be implemented only if a formal price contract is written and combined with a relational contract. We also show that there are cases in which not writing a formal contract but entirely relying on a relational contract increases the total surplus of the buyer and the seller. The key condition is how the investment affects the renegotiation price in general, and the alternative-use value in particular.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2006/wp-cesifo-2006-08/cesifo1_wp1786.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1786.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1786
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  1. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 1999. "Reputation Effects and the Limits of Contracting: A Study of the Indian Software Industry," Working papers 99-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Jonathan Levin, 2003. "Relational Incentive Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 835-857, June.
  3. Shelanski, Howard A & Klein, Peter G, 1995. "Empirical Research in Transaction Cost Economics: A Review and Assessment," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 335-61, October.
  4. Bengt Holmstrom & John Roberts, 1998. "The Boundaries of the Firm Revisited," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 73-94, Fall.
  5. Grossman, Sanford J. & Hart, Oliver D., 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Scholarly Articles 3450060, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
  7. Coase, R H, 1988. "The Nature of the Firm: Influence," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 33-47, Spring.
  8. Asanuma, Banri, 1989. "Manufacturer-supplier relationships in Japan and the concept of relation-specific skill," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 1-30, March.
  9. F. Gul, 2000. "Unobservable Investment and the Hold-Up Problem," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 00s10, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  10. Cai, Hongbin, 2003. " A Theory of Joint Asset Ownership," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(1), pages 63-77, Spring.
  11. Edlin, Aaron S & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1996. "Holdups, Standard Breach Remedies, and Optimal Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 478-501, June.
  12. Maija Halonen, 2002. "Reputation And The Allocation Of Ownership," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 539-558, July.
  13. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  14. Michael D. Ryall & Rachelle C. Sampson, 2009. "Formal Contracts in the Presence of Relational Enforcement Mechanisms: Evidence from Technology Development Projects," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(6), pages 906-925, June.
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