Cooperation and Mistrust in Relational Contracts

42 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2016

See all articles by Holger Herz

Holger Herz

University of Zurich

Armin Schmutzler

University of Zurich - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

André Volk


Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 16, 2016


Work and trade relationships are often governed by relational contracts, in which incentives for cooperative action today stem from the prospective future benefits of the relationship. In this paper, we study how reductions in clarity about the financial consequences of actions, induced by incomplete information about the costs of providing quality, affect relational contracts in buyer-seller relationships. Under incomplete information, payoffs to actions become private information. This can impede the joint understanding of what constitutes cooperative behavior, and may thus inject mistrust into relationships, even if credibility is held constant. Comparing seller-buyer relationships with and without complete information about seller costs in the laboratory, we find that such a lack of clarity has effects on the terms of relational contracts. However, these effects only concern the distribution of rents, and not efficiency.

Keywords: relational contracts, incomplete information, experiments

JEL Classification: D010, D030, L140, L200

Suggested Citation

Herz, Holger and Schmutzler, Armin and Volk, André, Cooperation and Mistrust in Relational Contracts (August 16, 2016). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6045. Available at SSRN:

Holger Herz (Contact Author)

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006

Armin Schmutzler

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zürich, CH-8006

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

United Kingdom

André Volk

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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