IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Contractual solutions to hold-up problems with quality uncertainty and unobservable investments

  • Schmitz, Patrick W

Consider a seller and a buyer who write a contract. After that, the seller produces a good. She can influence the expected quality of the good by making unobservable investments. Only the seller learns the realized quality. Finally, trade can occur. It is always ex post efficient to trade. Yet, it may be impossible to achieve the first best, even though the risk-neutral parties are symmetrically informed at the contracting stage and complete contracts can be written. The second best is characterized by distortions that are reminiscent of adverse selection models (i.e., models with precontractual private information but without hidden actions).

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7584.

in new window

Date of creation: Dec 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7584
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Centre for Economic Policy Research, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ.

Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820

Order Information: Email:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1999. "Foundations of Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 115-138.
  2. Claudio Mezzetti, 2004. "Mechanism Design with Interdependent Valuations: Efficiency," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1617-1626, 09.
  3. Hoppe, Eva I. & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2011. "Can contracts solve the hold-up problem? Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 186-199, September.
  4. Jehiel, Philippe & Moldovanu, Benny, 2006. "Allocative and Informational Externalities in Auctions and Related Mechanisms," CEPR Discussion Papers 5558, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Patrick Bolton & Mathias Dewatripont, 2005. "Contract Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262025760, December.
  6. Eva I. Hoppe & Patrick W. Schmitz, 2013. "Public-private partnerships versus traditional procurement: Innovation incentives and information gathering," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 44(1), pages 56-74, 03.
  7. Rubinstein, Ariel & Wolinsky, Asher, 1992. "Renegotiation-Proof Implementation and Time Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 600-614, June.
  8. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2002. "On the Interplay of Hidden Action and Hidden Information in Simple Bilateral Trading Problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(2), pages 444-460, April.
  9. Stremitzer, Alexander, 2008. "Standard Breach Remedies, Quality Thresholds, and Cooperative Investments," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 242, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  10. Schmitz, Patrick W, 2007. "Incomplete Contracts, the Hold-Up Problem and Asymmetric Information," CEPR Discussion Papers 6322, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Patrick W. Schmitz, 2005. "Should Contractual Clauses that Forbid Renegotiation Always be Enforced?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 315-329, October.
  12. Rosenkranz, Stephanie & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2003. "Optimal allocation of ownership rights in dynamic R&D alliances," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 153-173, April.
  13. Sergei Guriev, 2003. "Incomplete Contracts with Cross-Investments," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/67o636bvfi8, Sciences Po.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  17. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
  18. Matsuo, Toshihide, 1989. "On incentive compatible, individually rational, and ex post efficient mechanisms for bilateral trading," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 189-194, October.
  19. Roger B. Myerson & Mark A. Satterthwaite, 1981. "Efficient Mechanisms for Bilateral Trading," Discussion Papers 469S, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  20. Thomas P. Lyon & Eric Rasmusen, 2004. "Buyer-Option Contracts Restored: Renegotiation, Inefficient Threats, and the Hold-Up Problem," Working Papers 2004-10, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  21. Oliver E. Williamson, 2000. "The New Institutional Economics: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 595-613, September.
  22. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, December.
  23. Samuelson, William F, 1984. "Bargaining under Asymmetric Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(4), pages 995-1005, July.
  24. Cremer, Jacques, & Riordan, Michael H, 1985. "A Sequential Solution to the Public Goods Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(1), pages 77-84, January.
  25. Hart, Oliver, 1995. "Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288817, December.
  26. Eric Maskin & John Moore, 1998. "Implementation and renegotiation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19350, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  27. Schmitz, Patrick W, 2001. "The Hold-up Problem and Incomplete Contracts: A Survey of Recent Topics in Contract Theory," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(1), pages 1-17, January.
  28. Bester, Helmut, 2013. "Investments and the holdup problem in a matching market," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 302-311.
  29. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2008. "Information gathering and the hold-up problem in a complete contracting framework," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 268-271, December.
  30. Peter Cramton & Robert Gibbons & Paul Klemperer, 1987. "Dissolving a Partnership Efficiently," Papers of Peter Cramton 87econ, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 09 Jun 1998.
  31. Schweizer, Urs, 2006. "Universal possibility and impossibility results," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 73-85, October.
  32. Hardman Moore, John & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," CEPR Discussion Papers 60, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  33. Oliver Hart, 2008. "Economica Coase Lecture Reference Points and the Theory of the Firm," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(299), pages 404-411, 08.
  34. Akira Konakayama & Toshihide Mitsui & Shinichi Watanabe, 1986. "Efficient Contracting with Reliance and a Damage Measure," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(3), pages 450-457, Autumn.
  35. Jean Tirole, 1999. "Incomplete Contracts: Where Do We Stand?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 741-782, July.
  36. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2002. "Simple contracts, renegotiation under asymmetric information, and the hold-up problem," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 169-188, January.
  37. Kessler, Anke & Lülfesmann, Christoph, 2000. "The Theory of Human Capital Revisited: On the Interaction of General and Specific Investments," CEPR Discussion Papers 2533, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  38. Oliver E. Williamson, 2002. "The Theory of the Firm as Governance Structure: From Choice to Contract," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 171-195, Summer.
  39. Steven R. Williams, 1999. "A characterization of efficient, bayesian incentive compatible mechanisms," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 14(1), pages 155-180.
  40. Che, Y.K. & Hausch, D.B., 1997. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," Working papers 9714, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  41. Schmitz, Patrick W, 2005. "Information Gathering, Transaction Costs and the Property Rights Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 5417, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  42. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-1161.
  43. Kurt Annen, 2009. "Efficiency out of disorder: Contested ownership in incomplete contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(4), pages 597-610.
  44. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2002. "On simple contracts, renegotiation under asymmetric information, and the hold-up problem," MPRA Paper 12530, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  45. Oliver Hart, 2009. "Hold-up, Asset Ownership, and Reference Points," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 267-300.
  46. Hoppe, Eva I & Schmitz, Patrick W, 2008. "Public Versus Private Ownership: Quantity Contracts and the Allocation of Investment Tasks," CEPR Discussion Papers 7056, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  47. Farrell, Joseph & Gibbons, Robert, 1995. "Cheap Talk about Specific Investments," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 313-34, October.
  48. Alan Schwartz & Robert Scott, . "Contract Theory and the Limits of Contract Law," Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy Working Paper Series yale_lepp-1011, Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy.
  49. Vijay Krishna & Motty Perry, 1997. "Efficient Mechanism Design," Game Theory and Information 9703010, EconWPA, revised 28 Apr 1998.
  50. Schmitz, Patrick W, 2007. "Joint Ownership and the Hold-up Problem Under Asymmetric Information," CEPR Discussion Papers 6478, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  51. Alan Schwartz, 1997. "Incomplete Contracts," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm73, Yale School of Management.
  52. Hermalin, Benjamin E & Katz, Michael L, 1993. "Judicial Modification of Contracts between Sophisticated Parties: A More Complete View of Incomplete Contracts and Their Breach," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 230-55, October.
  53. Peter Klibanoff & Jonathan Morduch, 1995. "Decentralization, Externalities, and Efficiency," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(2), pages 223-247.
  54. 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.
  55. Myerson, Roger B., 1982. "Optimal coordination mechanisms in generalized principal-agent problems," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 67-81, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7584. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.