Economic Theory

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 335–355 | Cite as

Optimal procurement mechanisms: bidding on price and damages for breach

  • Ottorino Chillemi
  • Claudio MezzettiEmail author
Research Article


We study the optimal procurement mechanism when contract breach and abandoning a project may be efficient, either because of completion costs higher than anticipated or because of new and more lucrative opportunities for the contractor. When contractors have private information about their costs, the procurer finds it optimal to set damages above expectation damages. There is a lock-in effect, or status quo bias; the agent that has won the award will complete the project even in situations when it would be efficient to abandon it. If the cost types of all agents are above a threshold, the optimal bidding procedure assigns the project by lottery. The optimal mechanism cannot be implemented by standard auction formats. However, the larger the number of agents bidding for the project, the closer auctions with a liquidated damage clause approximate the optimal mechanism.


Procurement Principal-agent Contract breach Liquidated damages 

JEL Classification

D44 D82 H57 L51 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of PaduaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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