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Full-Text Articles in Law

Contractual Landmines, Robert E. Scott, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati Jan 2024

Contractual Landmines, Robert E. Scott, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati

Faculty Scholarship

Conventional wisdom is that the standardized boilerplate terms used in large commercial markets survive unchanged because they are an optimal solution to the contracting problems facing parties in these markets. As Smith and Warner explained, “harmful heuristics, like harmful mutations, will die out.” But an examination of a sample of current sovereign bond contracts reveals numerous instances of harmful landmines — some are deliberate changes to standard language that increase a creditor’s nonpayment risk, others are blatant drafting errors, and yet others are inapt terms that have been carelessly imported from corporate transactions. Moreover, these landmines differ from each other …


Investigating The Contract Production Process, Stephen J. Choi, Robert E. Scott, G. Mitu Gulati Jan 2021

Investigating The Contract Production Process, Stephen J. Choi, Robert E. Scott, G. Mitu Gulati

Faculty Scholarship

Contract law and theory have traditionally paid little attention to the processes by which contracts are made. Instead, contracts among sophisticated parties are assumed to be full articulations of the desires of the parties; whatever the process, the outcome is the same. This article compares sovereign debt contracts from US and UK firms, with different production processes, that are trying to do the same thing under very similar legal regimes. We find that that the production process likely matters quite a bit to the final form that contracts take.


Innovation Versus Encrustation: Agency Costs In Contract Reproduction, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2020

Innovation Versus Encrustation: Agency Costs In Contract Reproduction, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

This article studies the impact of exogenous legal change on whether and how lawyers across four different deal types revise their contracts’ governing law clauses in order to solve the problem that the legal change created. The governing law clause is present in practically every contract across a wide range of industries and, in particular, it appears in deals as disparate as private equity M&A transactions and sovereign bond issuances. Properly drafted, the clause increases the ex ante economic value of the contract to both parties by reducing uncertainty and litigation risk. We posit that different levels of agency costs …


Contractual Arbitrage, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2020

Contractual Arbitrage, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Standard-form contracts are likely to be incomplete because they are not tailored to the needs of particular deals. In an attempt to reduce incompleteness, standard-form contracts often contain clauses with vague or ambiguous terms. Terms with indeterminate meaning present opportunities for strategic behavior well after a contract has been executed. This linguistic uncertainty in standard-form commercial contracts creates an opportunity for “contractual arbitrage”: parties may argue ex post that the uncertainties in expression mean something that the contracting parties did not contemplate ex ante. This chapter argues that the scope for contractual arbitrage is a direct function of the techniques …


The Black Hole Problem In Commercial Boilerplate, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2017

The Black Hole Problem In Commercial Boilerplate, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Rote use of a standard form contract term can erode its meaning, a phenomenon made worse when the process of encrustation introduces various formulations of the term. The foregoing process, when it occurs, weakens the communicative properties of boilerplate terms, leading some terms to lose much, if not all, meaning. In theory, if a clause is completely emptied of meaning through this process it can create a contractual “black hole.” The more frequent and thus potentially more pervasive problem arises when, as the term loses meaning, random variations in language appear and persist, resulting in what we term a “grey …


Variation In Boilerplate: Rational Design Or Random Mutation?, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2016

Variation In Boilerplate: Rational Design Or Random Mutation?, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Standard contract doctrine presumes that sophisticated parties choose their terminology carefully because they want courts or counterparts to understand what they intended. The implication of this “Rational Design” model of rational behavior is that courts should pay careful attention to the precise phrasing of contracts. Using a study of the sovereign bond market, we examine the Rational Design model as applied to standard-form contracting. In NML v. Argentina, federal courts in New York attached importance to the precise phrasing of the boilerplate contracts at issue. The industry promptly condemned the decision for a supposedly erroneous interpretation of a variant of …


"Contracting" For Credit, Ronald J. Mann Jan 2006

"Contracting" For Credit, Ronald J. Mann

Faculty Scholarship

On a recent day, I used my credit cards in connection with a number of minor transactions. I made eight purchases, and I paid two credit card bills. I also discarded (without opening) three solicitations for new cards, balance transfer programs, or other similar offers to extend credit via a credit card. Statistics suggest that I am not atypical. U.S. consumers last year used credit cards in about 100 purchasing transactions per capita, with an average value of about $70. At the end of the year, Americans owed nearly $500 billion dollars, in the range of $1,800 for every man, …