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Contract Renegotiation in Agency Problems

  • Aaron S. Edlin

    (University of California at Berkeley)

  • Benjamin E. Hermalin

    (University of California at Berkeley)

This paper studies the ability of an agent and a principal to achieve the first-best outcome when the agent invests in an asset that has greater value if owned by the principal than by the agent. When contracts can be renegotiated, a well-known danger is that the principal can holdup the agent, undermining the agent's investment incentives. We begin by identifying a countervailing effect: Investment by the agent can increase his value for the asset, thus improving his bargaining position in renegotiation. We show that option contracts will achieve the first best whenever this threat-point effect dominates the holdup effect. Otherwise, achieving the first best is difficult and, in many cases, impossible. In such cases, we show that if parties have an appropriate signal available, then the first best is still attainable for a wide class of bargaining procedures. A noisy signal, however, means that the optimal contract will involve terms that courts might view as punitive and so refuse to enforce.

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File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/mic/papers/9705/9705002.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Microeconomics with number 9705002.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 23 May 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:9705002
Note: Type of Document - PDF; prepared on IBM PC ; pages: 33; figures: included
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Benjamin E. Hermalin and Michael L. Katz., 1990. "Moral Hazard and Verifiability: The Effects of Renegotiation in Agency," Economics Working Papers 90-141, University of California at Berkeley.
  2. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1988. "Moral Hazard and Renegotiation in Agency Contracts," Working papers 494, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Tai-Yeong Chung, 1991. "Incomplete Contracts, Specific Investments, and Risk Sharing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(5), pages 1031-1042.
  4. Hart, Oliver D & Moore, John, 1988. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 755-85, July.
  5. Nöldeke, Georg & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "Sequential investments and options to own," Munich Reprints in Economics 19327, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  6. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
  7. Georg Noldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1995. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation: A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(2), pages 163-179, Summer.
  8. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  9. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "The Cost and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," CEPR Discussion Papers 70, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Che, Y.K. & Hausch, D.B., 1996. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting: Coase vs Williamson," Working papers 9608, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  11. B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1997. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1787, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  12. Hermalin, Benjamin E & Katz, Michael L, 1993. "Judicial Modification of Contracts between Sophisticated Parties: A More Complete View of Incomplete Contracts and Their Breach," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 230-55, October.
  13. Ching-To Albert Ma, 1994. "Renegotiation and Optimality in Agency Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(1), pages 109-129.
  14. Che, Y.K. & Chung, Y.T., 1996. "Contract Damages and Cooperative Investments," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9612, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  15. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  16. Joel S. Demski & David E.M. Sappington, 1991. "Resolving Double Moral Hazard Problems with Buyout Agreements," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(2), pages 232-240, Summer.
  17. William P. Rogerson, 1992. "Contractual Solutions to the Hold-Up Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(4), pages 777-793.
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