Information Gathering, Disclosure and Contracting in Competitive Markets
The paper studies the determinants of information gathering in insurance and credit markets. In our set-up, information may have either operational or strategic value, e.g. it may improve allocative decisions or allow agents to appropriate a larger share of gains from trade at the contracting stage. The timing of information gathering is endogenous and agents can gather information either before or after contracting. Access to precontractual information generates a negative contracting externality, which was first identified in Hirshleifer.s (1971) seminal contribution. In contrast with a well established conventional wisdom and a substantial literature, we prove that, if the operational value of information is positive and not "too small", private returns of information fall short of its social returns, and pre-contractual access to information leads to under-investment . On the contrary, agents over-invest in information gathering activities, when the operational value of the available signals is sufficiently low. Consistently with contractual arrangements observed in the real world, we also show that equilibrium contracts have also a very simple shape when private information can be voluntarily disclosed.
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