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Courts of Law and Unforeseen Contingencies

  • Luca Anderlini

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Georgetown University)

  • Leonardo Felli

    ()

    (Department of Economics, London School of Economics)

  • Andrew Postlewaite

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

We study a contracting model with unforeseen contingencies in which the court is an active player. Ex-ante, the contracting parties cannot include the risky unforeseen contingencies in the contract they draw up. Ex-post the court observes whether an unforeseen contingency occurred, and decides whether to void or uphold the contract. If the contract is voided by the court, the parties can renegotiate a new agreement ex-post. There are two effects of a court that voids more contracts. The parties’ incentives to undertake relationship-specific investment are reduced, while the parties enjoy greater insurance against the unforeseen contingencies which the ex-ante contract cannot take into account. In this context, we are able to characterize fully the optimal decision rule for the court. The behavior of the optimal court is determined by the tradeoff between the need for incentives and the gains from insurance that voiding in some circumstances offers to the agents.

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File URL: http://economics.sas.upenn.edu/system/files/working-papers/06-001.pdf
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Paper provided by Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in its series PIER Working Paper Archive with number 06-001.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2001
Date of revision: 01 Jan 2006
Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:06-001
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  1. Schwartz, Alan & Watson, Joel, 2000. "Economic and Legal Aspects of Costly Recontracting," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt4jr3g3h7, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  2. 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.
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  4. Nabil J Al-Najjar & Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 2002. "Unforeseen Contingencies," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series 431, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  5. Anderlini, Luca & Felli, Leonardo & Postlewaite, Andrew, 2004. "Should Courts Always Enforce What Contracting Parties Write?," CEPR Discussion Papers 4197, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  11. Rajan, Raghuram G & Zingales, Luigi, 1998. "Power in a Theory of the Firm," CEPR Discussion Papers 1777, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Nabil I. Al-Najjar & Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 2006. "Undescribable Events," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 849-868.
  13. Schwartz, Alan & Watson, Joel, 2001. "The Law and Economics of Costly Contracting," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt2wh8m7bv, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  14. Dekel, Eddie & Lipman, Barton L. & Rustichini, Aldo, 1998. "Recent developments in modeling unforeseen contingencies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 523-542, May.
  15. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1999. "Economic Analysis of Law," NBER Working Papers 6960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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