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Short-term, Long-term, and Continuing Contracts

Listed author(s):
  • Maija Halonen-Akatwijuka
  • Oliver Hart

Parties often regulate their relationships through “continuing” contracts that are neither long-term nor short-term but usually roll over. We study the trade-off between long-term, short-term, and continuing contracts in a two period model where gains from trade exist in the first period, and may or may not exist in the second period. A long-term contract that mandates trade in both periods is disadvantageous since renegotiation is required if there are no gains from trade in the second period. A short-term contract is disadvantageous since a new contract must be negotiated if gains from trade exist in the second period. A continuing contract can be better. In a continuing contract there is no obligation to trade in the second period but if there are gains from trade the parties will bargain “in good faith” using the first period contract as a reference point. This can reduce the cost of negotiating the next contract. Continuing contracts are not a panacea, however, since good faith bargaining may preclude the use of outside options in the bargaining process and as a result parties will sometimes fail to trade when this is efficient.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 21005.

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Date of creation: Mar 2015
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21005
Note: CF LE
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  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 1-48.
  2. Goldberg, Victor P & Erickson, John R, 1987. "Quantity and Price Adjustment in Long-term Contracts: A Case Study of Petroleum Coke," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 369-398, October.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2015. "How Do Informal Agreements And Revision Shape Contractual Reference Points?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 1-28, February.
  4. Sergei Guriev & Dmitriy Kvasov, 2005. "Contracting on Time," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1369-1385, December.
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  8. 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.
  9. Oriana Bandiera, 2007. "Contract Duration and Investment Incentives: Evidence from Land Tenancy Agreements," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(5), pages 953-986, 09.
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  12. 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.
  13. Scott E. Masten, 2009. "Long-Term Contracts and Short-Term Commitment: Price Determination for Heterogeneous Freight Transactions," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 79-111.
  14. Douglas W. Diamond, 1991. "Debt Maturity Structure and Liquidity Risk," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(3), pages 709-737.
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  17. Maija Halonen-Akatwijuka & Oliver D. Hart, 2013. "More is Less: Why Parties May Deliberately Write Incomplete Contracts," NBER Working Papers 19001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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