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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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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
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  1. Ma, Ching-To Albert, 1994. "Renegotiation and Optimality in Agency Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(1), pages 109-29, January.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Grossman, Sanford J. & Hart, Oliver D., 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Scholarly Articles 3450060, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. Fudenberg, Drew & Tirole, Jean, 1990. "Moral Hazard and Renegotiation in Agency Contracts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1279-1319, November.
  6. Georg Noeldeke & Klaus Schmidt, 1998. "Sequential Investments and Options to Own," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(4), pages 633-653, Winter.
  7. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  8. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1985. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," Working papers 367, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Yeon-Koo Che & Tai-Yeong Chung, 1999. "Contract Damages and Cooperative Investments," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(1), pages 84-105, Spring.
  10. Nöldeke, Georg & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1995. "Option contracts and renegotiation: A solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Munich Reprints in Economics 19329, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  11. Hermalin, Benjamin E. & Katz, Michael L., 1990. "Moral Hazard and Verifiability: The Effects of Renegotiation in Agency," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt1678w3w9, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  12. Rogerson, William P, 1992. "Contractual Solutions to the Hold-Up Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(4), pages 777-93, October.
  13. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
  14. 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.
  15. Chung, Tai-Yeong, 1991. "Incomplete Contracts, Specific Investments, and Risk Sharing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(5), pages 1031-42, October.
  16. repec:att:wimass:9608 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. 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.
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