Partnership and Hold-Up in Early America
Williamson (1985) argues that individuals form firms with specific internal governance structures to mitigate certain types of opportunistic behavior that may inhibit efficient contracting between independent contractors. But once firms are established, the individuals that comprise them may still act opportunistically. This paper investigates a specific historical case: the partnership in early America. Partnerships grappled with information-based problems, such as adverse selection, moral hazard, as well as ex ante and ex post contractual opportunism, including hold-up. Asset specificity and imperfect contracts made partnerships vulnerable to hold-up, especially when one partner invested in a sunk asset that enhanced the productivity of all other partners. This was a particular problem facing existing partners when they invited a new partner into their firm. Empirical evidence from the mid-nineteenth century suggests that individuals mitigated the effects of pre- and post-contractual opportunism by forming partnerships with others of similar age, productivity, and capital. This finding brings the traditional interpretation of partnerships as mentor-prot‚g‚ relationships into question.
|Date of creation:||Feb 2002|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 2000.
"The Governance of the New Enterprise,"
NBER Working Papers
7958, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Baker, George P & Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1988.
" Compensation and Incentives: Practice vs. Theory,"
Journal of Finance,
American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 593-616, July.
- Demsetz, Harold, 1988. "The Theory of the Firm Revisited," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 141-61, Spring.
- Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1995.
"A Survey of Corporate Governance,"
Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers
1741, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Conley, Timothy G. & Galenson, David W., 1998. "Nativity and Wealth in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Cities," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 468-493, June.
- Lamoreaux, Naomi R, 1998. "Partnerships, Corporations, and the Theory of the Firm," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 66-71, May.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8814. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.