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Hold-up, Asset Ownership, and Reference Points

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  • Oliver Hart

Abstract

We study two parties who desire a smooth trading relationship under conditions of value and cost uncertainty. A rigid contract fixing price works well in normal times since there is nothing to argue about. However, when value or cost is exceptional, one party will hold up the other , damaging the relationship and causing deadweight losses as parties withhold cooperation. We show that a judicious allocation of asset ownership can help by reducing the incentives to engage in hold up. In contrast to the literature, the driving force in our model is payoff uncertainty rather than noncontractible investments.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver Hart, 2007. "Hold-up, Asset Ownership, and Reference Points," NBER Working Papers 13540, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13540 Note: CF LE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
    2. Klein, Benjamin, 1996. "Why Hold-Ups Occur: The Self-Enforcing Range of Contractual Relationships," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(3), pages 444-463, July.
    3. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "Power in a Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 387-432.
    4. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 2002. "Relational Contracts and the Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 39-84.
    5. Silke J. Forbes & Mara Lederman, 2010. "Does vertical integration affect firm performance? Evidence from the airline industry," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(4), pages 765-790.
    6. Wernerfelt, Birger, 1997. "On the Nature and Scope of the Firm: An Adjustment-Cost Theory," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70(4), pages 489-514, October.
    7. Francine Lafontaine & Margaret Slade, 2007. "Vertical Integration and Firm Boundaries: The Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 629-685.
    8. Williamson, Oliver E, 1971. "The Vertical Integration of Production: Market Failure Considerations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 112-123, May.
    9. Klein, Benjamin & Murphy, Kevin M, 1997. "Vertical Integration as a Self-Enforcing Contractual Arrangement," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 415-420, May.
    10. Maija Halonen, 2002. "Reputation And The Allocation Of Ownership," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 539-558, July.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law

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