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Risk Sharing through Breach of Contract Remedies


  • A. Mitchell Polinsky


This paper examines the sharing of risk under three different remedies for breach of contract. The risk considered arises from the possibility that, after a seller and buyer have entered into an agreement for the exchange of some (not generally available) good, a third party who values the good more than the original buyer may come along before delivery has occurred; the seller will want to breach. It is shown that this risk is optimally allocated by the expectation damage remedy if the seller is risk neutral and the buyer is risk averse, by the specific performance remedy if the opposite is true, and by a liquidated damage remedy if both parties are risk averse. The level of damages under the liquidated damage remedy is also shown to be bounded by the expectation measure of damages and a "damage equivalent" to the specific performance remedy. By means of a numerical example, it is shown that use of the prevailing remedy for breach of contract -- the expectation damage remedy -- may plausibly cause a welfare loss of as much as 20% due to inappropriate risk sharing.

Suggested Citation

  • A. Mitchell Polinsky, 1981. "Risk Sharing through Breach of Contract Remedies," NBER Working Papers 0714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0714
    Note: LE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stockman, Alan C, 1980. "A Theory of Exchange Rate Determination," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(4), pages 673-698, August.
    2. Rodriguez, Carlos Alfredo, 1980. "The Role of Trade Flows in Exchange Rate Determination: A Rational Expectations Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(6), pages 1148-1158, December.
    3. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1981. "Macroeconomic Policy, Exchange-Rate Dynamics, and Optimal Asset Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1142-1161, December.
    4. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Inflation and Welfare in the Steady State," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(3), pages 561-577, June.
    5. Helpman, Elhanan, 1981. "An Exploration in the Theory of Exchange-Rate Regimes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 865-890, October.
    6. Dornbusch, Rudiger, 1976. "Expectations and Exchange Rate Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1161-1176, December.
    7. Laurence Weiss, 1978. "A Model of International Trade and Finance," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 499, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    8. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1980. "Equilibrium in a Pure Currency Economy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(2), pages 203-220, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven Shavell, 1981. "On the Design of Contracts and Remedies for Breach," NBER Working Papers 0727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Oren Bar-Gill & Lucian A. Bebchuk, 2007. "Consent and Exchange," NBER Working Papers 13267, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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