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Transaction Cost Theory

ACCA P1考试:Transaction Cost Theory
1 Development
Initially considered by Ronald Coarse (1937), transaction costs were first defined in purely economic terms as the costs incurred in making an "economic exchange with an external
third party". These include:
search and information costs—such as market research and employing consultants (e.g. to determine who has the goods and services available, terms and conditions and
prices charged by different suppliers);
bargaining costs—such as legal fees (e.g. in negotiating prices, terms and conditions, reaching an acceptable agreement, drawing up contracts, etc); and
policing and enforcement costs (e.g. to ensure that there is no breach of contract and to seek redress if there is).
Coarse argued that these market-based transactions and costs can be eliminated within a firm. Firms should therefore tend toward vertical integration (e.g. brewery groups, oil groups) as this would remove such costs and the risks and uncertainties of dealing with external sources. Ultimately, the market would be replaced by one firm.
His underlying assumption was that managers make rational decisions for the primary aim of profit maximisation. Further work by Cyert and March (1963), Williamson (1966) and others considered that a firm consists of people with differing views and objectives. They also extended the concept of transactions from merely buying and selling to include intangible elements (e.g. promises made and favours owed).
They also considered managers to behave rationally, but only up to a certain point as, like all human beings, they also are opportunistic. As agents, they take advantage of opportunities to further their own self-interest and privileges.
While managers would organise transactions for the firm's benefit, there would come a point eventually (e.g. when it is worth the risk and they do not expect to be caught) when certain transactions and opportunities would be geared to the manager's benefit.
Consequently, principals need to ensure that transactions maximise the benefit to the company while minimising the potential for opportunism by agents.
2 Comparison to Agency Theory
Both agency theory and transaction cost theory, in their current forms, aim to explain the need for the principal to control the agent, or rather ask the question: "How can company management be persuaded to maximise the interests of the shareholder rather than management's own interests?"
Agency TheoryTransaction Cost Theory
Managers actively pursue their own economic benefits.Managers opportunistically arrange their transactions in order to benefit.
Considers the individual person (and the costs of controlling and monitoring them).Considers the nature of transactions and the opportunities they may give to management to organise them for their benefit.