1.. In order to attract candidates from liberal arts universities without formal accounting majors, the big six accounting firms run a special program in conjunction with New York University's Stern School of Business. Liberal arts majors who are hired must attend school during summers and at night for two years. The employee must pay for this schooling; assume that it costs $5,000. After they finish their courses, employees take the CPA exam. During they time they are going to school (and working), employees are paid $35,000/year.
Classes are composed entirely of new employees of big six accounting firms. Because they are in the midst of receiving exactly the same training, it is common for new employees to switch firms during their first two years. Effectively, each of these trainees always has the opportunity to switch to a different big six accounting firm and be paid $35,000/year.
During March of my senior year at school, my two most attractive offers
were from a big six accounting firm and an economics consulting firm. The
big six accounting firm's offer is described above. The economic consulting
firm's offer was $25,000/year. Assume that the consulting firm has a policy
of not hiring anyone who has ever worked at an accounting firm (it is extremely
costly to retrain accountants to do good economic analysis). My next best
opportunity was earning $22,000/year at a health care management firm in
New York. This offer would stay open for the foreseeable future, and it
would remain better than any other opportunity.
2. Firms use various types of trailers when hauling goods by truck. Two examples are "basic vans" and "grain bodies." Basic vans are used to haul general freight: goods which are packaged in boxes and which are not temperature-sensitive. (These are the familiar box-like trailers you see on the road.) Grain bodies are trailers which have no top, but have sides which are reinforced by layers of steel that can withstand large amounts of pressure from inside.
Hubbard (1998) finds that nationwide, about 35% of hauls which use basic vans are completed by private fleets -- circumstances where manufacturers, distributors, retailers, etc., haul their own goods. The rest are completed by for-hire trucking firms. In contrast, 75% of hauls which use grain bodies are completed by private fleets; only 25% are completed by for-hire fleets.
This is quite consistent with Klein, Crawford, and Alchian. Grain bodies are more specific to users. Lower density of users implies that it is more costly to find and transport the trailer to alternative users than for basic vans. Under competitive contracting, this implies that appropriable quasi-rents would tend to be greater for grain bodies than for basic vans. Vertical integration would hence tend to be efficient relative to competitive contracting more frequently for hauls using grain bodies than for those using basic vans.
[I operate a trucking company. Someone phones me up. We agree on a price. I drive the tractor-trailer to your door. Once I do so, it is costly for me to find and serve other shippers -- the more distant the alternative shipper, the more costly it is. If the alternative shipper is right next door and you try to renegotiate the price, I simply serve the shipper next door. If the alternative shipper is halfway across the state, you may well be successful in your renegotiation. The hold-up problem appears in the latter case but not the former, because the proximity of the alternative user affects the extent to which quasi-rents are appropriable. Alternative users tend to be more nearby for trailers which can be used to haul many commodities.]
Further research indicates that 55% of hauls which use grain bodies in Iowa are completed by for-hire trucking firms, but 5% of hauls which use grain bodies in Oregon do.
3. When one firm purchases another, it often justifies the purchase by claiming that there exist "synergies" -- that somehow the value of the merged firm is higher than the sum of the values of the two firm given separate ownership.
According to Hart, the difference between a merger and contracting is contracting does not transfer residual control rights. Separate entities own the different physical assets.
The reason this is true is the following: start with a situation where separate managers own two different physical assets. These managers have good incentives to make non-contractible investments which are complementary to their assets. Each manager could threaten to withdraw their asset in an attempt to get more of the pie, but these threats would not have much teeth. If the assets are independent, no value is lost if the managers do not trade with each other. Therefore, neither manager fears appropriation of their non-contractible investments -- so they have strong incentives to invest.
If one manager owns both physical assets, this is likely worse for
the following reason. Owning both assets does not improve the manager's
investment incentives -- he or she had good incentives even owning only
one of the assets. Owning neither asset weakens a manager's incentives,
however. So a merger would weaken one manager's incentives without
improving the others. This is why separate ownership is efficient
when physical assets are independent.
By a similar logic, efficiency wage theory provides a coherent explanation for why compensation generally increases with age for salaried workers. One has to pay them more and more to satisfy their no shirking constraint.
This is not the only possible theory for the relationship between wages and age. But it is a theory that is consistent with the facts.