November 2012 Vol. 111 No. 2 THE REVIEW

Information Escrows

Ian Ayres & Cait Unkovic

A variety of information escrows—including allegation escrows, suspicion escrows, and shared-interest escrows—hold the promise of reducing the first-mover disadvantage that can deter people with socially valuable private information from disclosing that information to others. Information escrows allow people to transmit sensitive information to a trusted intermediary, an escrow agent, who only forwards the information under prespecified conditions. For example, an allegation escrow for sexual harassment might allow a victim to place a private complaint into escrow with instructions that the complaint be lodged with the proper authorities only if the escrow agent receives at least one additional allegation against the same individual. We assess the benefits and costs of allegation escrows and discuss how they might be applied to a variety of claims, including sexual harassment, date rape, adultery, and corporate and public whistle-blowing. We also show how analogous shared-interest escrows might be used in workplace dating and adoption contexts to facilitate the discovery of parties' mutual interest when unintermediated expressions of interest might themselves be harassing.

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