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Contract Renegotiation in Agency Problems

  • Aaron S. Edlin
  • Benjamin E. Hermalin

This paper studies the ability of an agent and a principal to achieve the first-best outcome when the agent invests in an asset that has greater value if owned by the principal than by the agent. When contracts can be renegotiated, a well-known danger is that the principal can hold up the agent, undermining the agent's investment incentives. We begin by identifying a countervailing effect: Investment by the agent can increase his value for the asset, thus improving his bargaining position in renegotiation. We show that option contracts will achieve the first best whenever this threat-point effect dominates the holdup effect. Otherwise, achieving the first best is difficult and, in many cases, impossible. In such cases, we show that if parties have an appropriate signal available, then the first best is still attainable for a wide class of bargaining procedures. A noisy signal, however, means that the optimal contract will involve terms that courts might view as punitive and so refuse to enforce.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6086.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6086.

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Date of creation: Jul 1997
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Publication status: published as Edlin, Aaron S. and Benjamin E. Hermalin. "Contract Renegotiation And Options In Agency Problems," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 2000, v16(2,Oct), 395-423.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6086
Note: LE
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  1. Hardman Moore, John & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," CEPR Discussion Papers 60, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. Yeon-Koo Che & Tai-Yeong Chung, 1999. "Contract Damages and Cooperative Investments," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(1), pages 84-105, Spring.
  4. Ma, C.A., 1991. "Renegotiation and Optimality in Agency Contracts," Papers 29, Stanford - Institute for Thoretical Economics.
  5. Oliver Hart & Sanford Grossman, 1985. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Working papers 372, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. Georg Noeldeke & Klaus Schmidt, 1998. "Sequential Investments and Options to Own," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(4), pages 633-653, Winter.
  7. Benjamin E. Hermalin and Michael L. Katz., 1990. "Moral Hazard and Verifiability: The Effects of Renegotiation in Agency," Economics Working Papers 90-141, University of California at Berkeley.
  8. Che, Y.K. & Hausch, D.B., 1996. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting: Coase vs Williamson," Working papers 9608, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  9. Mathias Dewatripont & Philippe Aghion & Patrick Rey, 1994. "Renegotiation design with unverifiable information," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9591, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  10. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  11. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  13. Georg Nöldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1992. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation - A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Discussion Paper Serie A 417, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Aug 1993.
  14. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1988. "Moral Hazard and Renegotiation in Agency Contracts," Working papers 494, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  15. Rogerson, William P, 1992. "Contractual Solutions to the Hold-Up Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(4), pages 777-93, October.
  16. Joel S. Demski & David E.M. Sappington, 1991. "Resolving Double Moral Hazard Problems with Buyout Agreements," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(2), pages 232-240, Summer.
  17. Chung, Tai-Yeong, 1991. "Incomplete Contracts, Specific Investments, and Risk Sharing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(5), pages 1031-42, October.
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