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Costly Contracting in a Long-Term Relationship

  • Pierpaolo Battigalli
  • Giovanni Maggi

We examine a model of contracting where parties interact repeatedly and can contract at any point in time, but writing enforceable contracts is costly. A contract can describe contingencies and actions at a more or less detailed level, and the cost of writing a contract is proportional to the amount of detail. We consider both formal (externally enforced) and informal (self-enforcing) contracts. The presence of writing costs has important implications both for the optimal structure of formal contracts, particularly the tradeoff between contingent and spot contracts, and for the interaction between formal and informal contracting. Our model sheds light on these implications and generates a rich set of predictions about the determinants of the optimal mode of contracting.

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Paper provided by New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 04-33.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ste:nystbu:04-33
Contact details of provider: Postal: New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics, 44 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012-1126
Phone: (212) 998-0860
Fax: (212) 995-4218
Web page: http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/economics/

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  1. W. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1986. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Working Papers 585, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. Pearce, David G. & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1998. "The Interaction of Implicit and Explicit Contracts in Repeated Agency," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 75-96, April.
  4. Dye, Ronald A, 1985. "Costly Contract Contingencies," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(1), pages 233-50, February.
  5. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1999. "Unforeseen Contingencies and Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 83-114, January.
  6. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Giovanni Maggi, 2002. "Rigidity, Discretion, and the Costs of Writing Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 798-817, September.
  7. Gray, Jo Anna, 1976. "Wage indexation: A macroeconomic approach," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 221-235, April.
  8. Oliver Hart & Bengt Holmstrom, 1986. "The Theory of Contracts," Working papers 418, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1993. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," NBER Working Papers 4480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Gray, Jo Anna, 1978. "On Indexation and Contract Length," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(1), pages 1-18, February.
  11. Bull, Clive, 1987. "The Existence of Self-Enforcing Implicit Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(1), pages 147-59, February.
  12. W. Bentley Macleod, 2000. "Complexity and Contract," Revue d'Économie Industrielle, Programme National Persée, vol. 92(1), pages 149-178.
  13. Anderlini, Luca & Felli, Leonardo, 1994. "Incomplete Written Contracts: Undescribable States of Nature," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1085-1124, November.
  14. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 1999. "Incomplete Contracts and Complexity Costs," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 23-50, February.
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