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Reference Points in Renegotiations: The Role of Contracts and Competition

  • Bartling, Björn
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

Several recent papers argue that contracts provide reference points that affect ex post behavior. We test this hypothesis in a canonical buyer-seller relationship with renegotiation. Our paper provides causal experimental evidence that an initial contract has a highly significant and economically important impact on renegotiation behavior that goes beyond the effect of contracts on bargaining threatpoints. We compare situations in which an initial contract is renegotiated to strategically equivalent bargaining situations in which no ex ante contract was written. The ex ante contract causes sellers to ask for markups that are 45 percent lower than in strategically equivalent bargaining situations without an initial contract. Moreover, buyers are more likely to reject given markups in renegotiations than in negotiations. We do not find that these effects are stronger when the initial contract is concluded under competitive rather than monopolistic conditions.

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Paper provided by Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich in its series Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems with number 385.

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Date of creation: 03 Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:385
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  1. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-58, December.
  2. Hoppe, Eva I. & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2011. "Can contracts solve the hold-up problem? Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 186-199, September.
  3. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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