Debt, Relationship-Specific Investments, and Boundaries

15 May 2009 at 5:39 am Leave a comment

| Lasse Lien |

Here is a link to a nice paper by Jayant R. Kalea and Husayn Shahrurb from JFE back in 2007. The key finding in the paper is that low leverage is used as a commitment device to induce customers and suppliers to make relationship-specific investments (RSI). In short; the higher the need for RSI, the lower the choice of leverage. This raises some intriguing questions about the financial crisis. On the one hand the crisis should generally reduce the willingness to make RSI, as leverage and bankruptcy risks are driven upwards. Presumably then, firms will want to take compensating measures, but what can those measures be? The classical Williamsonian response would be vertical integration. For a given sensitivity to RSI, the inventive to integrate vertically should be strongest for highly leveraged firms. But who would want to integrate with a highly leveraged firm in these times? Or vertically integrate with any firm for that matter? And if the crisis is a temporary phenomenon, vertical integration seems pretty drastic. Another obvious counter measure would be to reduce leverage. That is of course easier said than done during the crisis. A third alternative is increased use of hybrids and alliances of various kinds, but it is difficult to see how this can alleviate the fundamental problem of liquidation risk. So is bruxism the only option?

Entry filed under: - Lien -, Strategic Management, Theory of the Firm.

Sid Winter on the Crisis Headline of the Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Nicolai J. Foss | home | posts
Peter G. Klein | home | posts
Richard Langlois | home | posts
Lasse B. Lien | home | posts


Former Guests | posts


Recent Posts



Our Recent Books

Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).

%d bloggers like this: