NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Hold-up, Asset Ownership, and Reference Points

Oliver Hart

NBER Working Paper No. 13540
Issued in October 2007
NBER Program(s):   CF   LE

We study two parties who desire a smooth trading relationship under conditions of value and cost uncertainty. A rigid contract fixing price works well in normal times since there is nothing to argue about. However, when value or cost is exceptional, one party will hold up the other , damaging the relationship and causing deadweight losses as parties withhold cooperation. We show that a judicious allocation of asset ownership can help by reducing the incentives to engage in hold up. In contrast to the literature, the driving force in our model is payoff uncertainty rather than noncontractible investments.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13540

Published: Oliver Hart, 2009. "Hold-Up, Asset Ownership, and Reference Points-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 267-300, February.

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