The Economics of Liquidated Damage Clauses in Contractual Environments with Private Information
Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, October 1992, 8(3)
Posted: 21 Feb 2014
Date Written: October 1, 1992
This paper considers trading environments in which buyers are privately informed about their valuations and sellers are privately informed about the expected value of outside trading opportunities. Outside opportunities are stochastic, however, and future realized shocks may make bilateral trade between a buyer and a seller inefficient. In this environment, there is a role for using liquidated damage clauses as a screening device in optimal contracts, whether designed by the seller, designed by the buyer or designed by a third-party. In all such design settings, liquidated damages are set below the buyer's valuation. Excessive liquidated damage clauses are never optimal in this trading environment and may be a symptom of another contracting distortion or failure. These findings provide a partial rationalization for why courts may strike down liquidated damage clauses when they are excessive, but not when they are insufficient to compensate the harmed party.
Keywords: Contract theory, Incentives
JEL Classification: C70, D82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation