NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Agreeing Now to Agree Later: Contracts that Rule Out but do not Rule In

Oliver Hart, John Moore

NBER Working Paper No. 10397
Issued in March 2004
NBER Program(s):   CF

We view a contract as a list of outcomes. Ex ante, the parties commit not to consider outcomes not on the list, i.e., these are ruled out'. Ex post, they freely bargain over outcomes on the list, i.e., the contract specifies no mechanism to structure their choice; in this sense outcomes on the list are not ruled in'. A loose' contract (long list) maximizes flexibility but may interfere with ex ante investment incentives. When these incentives are important enough, the parties may write a tight' contract (short list), even though this leads to ex post inefficiency.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10397

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