Reference Points, Social Norms, and Fairness in Contract Renegotiations

Forthcoming: Journal of the European Economic Association

39 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2012 Last revised: 18 Mar 2014

See all articles by Björn Bartling

Björn Bartling

University of Zurich - Department of Economics; Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Klaus M. Schmidt

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: March 17, 2014

Abstract

How does an ex ante contract affect behavior in an ex post renegotiation game? We address this question in a canonical buyer-seller relationship with renegotiation. Our paper provides causal experimental evidence that an initial contract has a highly significant and economically important impact on renegotiation behavior that goes beyond the effect of contracts on bargaining threat points. We compare situations in which an initial contract is renegotiated to strategically equivalent bargaining situations in which no ex ante contract was written. The ex ante contract causes sellers to ask for markups that are 45% lower than in strategically equivalent bargaining situations without an initial contract. Moreover, buyers are more likely to reject given markups in renegotiations than in negotiations. These effects do not depend on whether the contract was written under competitive or monopolistic conditions. Our results provide strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that contracts serve as reference points that shape and coordinate the expectations of the contracting parties.

Keywords: renegotiation, bargaining, reference points, contracts, competition

JEL Classification: C78, C91, D03, D86

Suggested Citation

Bartling, Björn and Schmidt, Klaus M., Reference Points, Social Norms, and Fairness in Contract Renegotiations (March 17, 2014). Forthcoming: Journal of the European Economic Association, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2123387 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2123387

Björn Bartling (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Klaus M. Schmidt

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Ludwigstrasse 28
Munich, D-80539
Germany
+49 89 2180 3405 (Phone)
+49 89 2180 3510 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.CESifo.de

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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