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Implicit Contracts and the Theory of the Firm


  • George Baker
  • Robert Gibbons
  • Kevin J. Murphy


We analyze the role of implicit contracts' (that is, informal agreements supported by" reputation rather than law) both within firms, for example in employment relationships between them, for example as hand-in-glove supplier relationships. We find that the optimal" organizational form is determined largely by what implicit contracts it facilitates. Among other" things, we also show that vertical integration is an efficient response to widely varying supply" prices. Finally, our model suggests why management' (that is, the development and" implementation of unwritten rules and codes of conduct) is essential in organizations. "

Suggested Citation

  • George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1997. "Implicit Contracts and the Theory of the Firm," NBER Working Papers 6177, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6177
    Note: CF IO

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kole, Stacey R., 1997. "The complexity of compensation contracts," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 79-104, January.
    2. Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
    3. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    4. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
    5. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-932, September.
    6. 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.
    7. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
    8. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-480, March.
    9. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
    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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    Cited by:

    1. Krishna B. Kumar & Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, "undated". "What Determines Firm Size?," CRSP working papers 496, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
    2. Lewin-Solomons, S., 2000. "Innovation and Authority in Franchise Systems: An Empirical Exploration of the Plural Form," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0015, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    3. Leiponen, Aija, . "Essays in the Economics of Knowledge: Innovation, Collaboration, and Organizational Complementarities," ETLA A, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, number 31.
    4. Carstensen, Vivian, 1999. "Beschäftigungssicherung durch Arbeitszeitflexibilisierung," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-228, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
    5. William P. Osterberg & James B. Thomson, 1999. "Banking consolidation and correspondent banking," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q I, pages 9-20.
    6. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "The Governance of the New Enterprise," CRSP working papers 487, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
    7. Azid, Toseef & Asutay, Mehmet & Burki, Umar, 2007. "Theory Of The Firm, Management And Stakeholders: An Islamic Perspective," Islamic Economic Studies, The Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), vol. 15, pages 1-30.
    8. Chisari, Omar O. & Ferro, Gustavo, 2009. "Gobierno Corporativo: los problemas, estado actual de la discusión y un ejercicio de medición para Argentina
      [Corporate Governance: the problems, the current stage of the discussion and a measureme
      ," MPRA Paper 15630, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Patrick Francois & Joanne Roberts, 2003. "Contracting Productivity Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 59-85.
    10. Christophe Moussu, 2000. "Endettement, accords implicites et capital organisationnel : vers une théorie organisationnelle de la structure financière," Revue Finance Contrôle Stratégie,, vol. 3(2), pages 167-196, June.
    11. Fan, Joseph P. H., 2000. "Price uncertainty and vertical integration: an examination of petrochemical firms," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 345-376, December.
    12. Christophe Moussu, 2000. "Endettement, accords implicites et capital organisationnel: vers une théorie organisationnelle de la structure financière," Working Papers CREGO 1000602, Université de Bourgogne - CREGO EA7317 Centre de recherches en gestion des organisations.

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