New Rules for Promissory Fraud
Yale University - Yale Law School; Yale University - Yale School of Management
Georgetown University Law Center
October 12, 2006
Arizona Law Review, Vol. 48, 2006
Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 331
Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 936869
This article summarizes the authors’ recommended reforms to the law of promissory fraud. These recommendations are presented as a Draft Prestatement of the Law of Insincere Promising. The basic propositions of the Prestatement are taken, with some modification, from the authors’ book, Insincere Promises: The Law of Misrepresented Intent (2005). This article adds extensive comments, in the style of the Restatements, and a prose introduction identifying three reforms we deem most important. First, courts should drop their insistence that every promise represents an intent to perform, and treat that representation instead as a default. Second, courts faced with claims of promissory fraud should pay more attention to scienter. This means both that promissory fraud claimants should be required to produce separate evidence of intent or recklessness, and that courts should recognize the largely overlooked possibility of negligent promissory misrepresentation. Finally, courts should acknowledge that promissory representations of intent are material only because they say something about the objective probability of performance, and should interpret a representation of intent to perform as saying, absent evidence to the contrary, that there is at least a fifty-percent chance that the promisor will perform.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: promissory fraud, fraud, promise (law), declaration of intention, contract, breach of contract
JEL Classification: K12, K13
Date posted: October 12, 2006 ; Last revised: February 28, 2012
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