By the time a young Ronald Coase was composing “The nature of the firm” (1937), litigation had already started wending its way through American courts that took up questions that really anticipated Grossman et al. on control rights and Simon and Williamson on adaptation, vertical integration and hierarchy in organizations.With the advent of competition law in 1890, courts had already been set up to take up the question of what constitutes a conspiracy to restrain trade.Courts eventually started to characterize conspiracies by sorting out what they are not: single entities replete with internal processes for exercising and delegating control. However, then came questions about whether governance structures that feature less than completely concentrated control could yet secure the status of single entity.A student of organization may yet discern in the many decades of case law a formative theory of the firm.
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