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Fairness, Incentives and Contractual Incompleteness

  • Ernst Fehr
  • Alexander Klein
  • Klaus M. Schmidt

We show that concerns for fairness may have dramatic consequences for the optimal provision of incentives in a moral hazard context. Incentive contracts that are optimal when there are only selfish actors become inferior when some agents are concerned about fairness. Conversely, contracts that are doomed to fail when there are only selfish actors provide powerful incentives and become superior when there are also fair-minded players. These predictions are strongly supported by the results of a series of experiments. Furthermore, our results suggest that the existence of fair actors may be an important reason why many contracts are left deliberately incomplete.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 072.

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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity - Evidence and Economic Applications," CEPR Discussion Papers 2703, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Aaron S. Edlin & Stefan Reichelstein, 1995. "Holdups, Standard Breach Remedies, and Optimal Investment," NBER Working Papers 5007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  13. Georg Nöldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1992. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation - A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Discussion Paper Serie A 417, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Aug 1993.
  14. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  15. Che, Y.K. & Hausch, D.B., 1997. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," Working papers 9714, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  16. Monika Schnitzer, 1994. "The Interaction of Explicit and Implicit Contracts," Discussion Paper Serie A 452, University of Bonn, Germany.
  17. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
  18. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Scholarly Articles 12375014, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  19. Ilya Segal, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82.
  20. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  21. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  22. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
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