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Can Contracts Solve the Hold-Up Problem? Experimental Evidence

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  • Hoppe, Eva I
  • Schmitz, Patrick W

Abstract

In the contract-theoretic literature, there is a vital debate about whether contracts can mitigate the hold-up problem when renegotiation cannot be prevented. Ultimately, the question has to be answered empirically. As a first step in that direction, we have conducted a laboratory experiment with 490 participants. We consider "cooperative" investments that directly benefit the non-investing party. While according to standard theory, contracting would be useless if renegotiation cannot be ruled out, we find that option contracts significantly improve investment incentives compared to a no-contract treatment. This finding can be explained by Hart and Moore’s (2008) notion that contracts may serve as reference points.

Suggested Citation

  • Hoppe, Eva I & Schmitz, Patrick W, 2009. "Can Contracts Solve the Hold-Up Problem? Experimental Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 7205, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7205
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Experiment; Hold-up problem; Option contracts; Renegotiation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law

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