Agency Problems and Organizational Costs in Slave-Run Businesses

31 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2011 Last revised: 31 Oct 2013

See all articles by Barbara Abatino

Barbara Abatino

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics (ACLE)

Giuseppe Dari‐Mattiacci

University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: October 12, 2011


In this paper we examine the internal economic organization of the peculium servi communis as separate business assets granted to a slave and its (external) relationships with creditors. Literary, legal and epigraphic evidence points predominantly to businesses of small or medium size, suggesting that there must have been some constraints to growth. We identify both agency problems arising within the business organization (governance problems) and agency problems arising between the business organization and its creditors (limited access to credit). We suggest that, although the praetorian remedies had a remarkable mitigating effect, agency problems operated as a constraint to the expansion of these business organizations, both in terms of individuals involved and in terms of capital invested.

Keywords: theory of the firm, limited liability, Roman law, slave

JEL Classification: K20, L22, L23, N83

Suggested Citation

Abatino, Barbara and Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe, Agency Problems and Organizational Costs in Slave-Run Businesses (October 12, 2011). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2011-40, Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2011-13, Available at SSRN: or

Barbara Abatino (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics (ACLE) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB

Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001 ND

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

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