What do we know about Single-Firm Conduct?
Luke M. Froeb
Sept 26, Washington, DC
DOJ & FTC Hearings on single-firm
(does not indicate agreement)
- Tim Brennan (UMBC & Canadian Competition Bureau)
- Dan O’brien(DOJ)
- Mike Vita (FTC)
- Greg Werden(DOJ)
Why is Horizontal Merger Analysis Relatively Easy?
- Ignores long-run, indirect effects
- Jargon: “distant” vs. “proximate” (short-run, direct)
- Distinct mechanisms through which mergers affect short-run welfare
- Unilateral, Entry, Product Repositioning, Efficiencies
- How much do we know about Coordinated?
- Gather evidence on each mechanism
- Compute net effect (“balancing”, “trade off”)
- Weighted sum (likelihood + magnitude)
Why is SingleConduct
Analysis Relatively Hard?
- Long-run, indirect, strategic effects
- Opposing mechanisms appear together
- Proximate: reduced price
- Distant: fewer competitors
- Vertical integration
- Proximate: eliminate double marginalization
- Distant: RRC or RRR
- Exclusive dealing
- Proximate: eliminate competitors
- Distant: incentive alignment between retailer & manufacturer
- How do we balance proximate vs. distant effects?
| ||Distant Mechanism|
|Bad||(bad, bad)||(bad, good)|
|Good||(good, bad)||(good, good)|
- Proximate: immediate, direct, current
- e.g., combining complements reduces price
- Distant: strategic, indirect, future
- e.g., incentive to innovate, invest, enter, advertise
- NOTE: 2X2 box assumes only 2 mechanismsbalance proximate vs. distant effects?
Simple Taxonomy (cont.)
| ||Distant Mechanism|
|Bad||Makes no business sense, but for...|
US Monopolization vs. EU Abuse of Dominance
- Different enforcement regimes
- US: More concerned with Type I errors
- EU: More concerned withType II errors
| ||Distant Effect|
|Bad||Type II Errors|
|Good||Type I Errors|
How does one Determine Effects?
- “Effect” question compares two states of the world (“with” vs. “without” behavior)
- Two ways of drawing inference about unobserved state of world, “counterfactual”
- Natural “experiments”
- Theory-based inference
- Theory of single-firm conduct often indeterminate
- Experimental market(with behavior)
- Control market(without behavior)
- Difference is estimate of effect.
- BIG questions
- How well does experiment mimic effect?
- Did you hold everything else constant?
Estimate of “Distant” effect Estimate of “Distant” effect
- FCC regulations (and Cable Act) required cable TV to carry local over-the-air channels
- Natural experiment: In 1980’s, Appeals Court overturned “must carry” on 1st Amendment grounds
- Question: Would cable monopolist drop competitors, when allowed?
Results: Probability a Channel
was Dropped or “Excluded”
||NOT Advertising competitor||Advertising competitor|
|NOT Broadcast competitor||8.4%||6.2%|
- Channels with low ratings dropped
- Competitors LESS likely to be dropped
- Refutes anticompetivehypothesis
- Gasoline: prices 2.7¢/gallon higher in states with vertical divorcement laws
- Beer: Indiana’s 1979 ban on exclusive territories reduced per-capita beer consumption by 6%
- Beer: UK divorcement of “tied” pubs raised price
- Fast food: prices at company-owned stores 2.8% lower
Voluntary vs. Govt.-imposed imposed
- when manufacturers … impose … restraints, not only do they make themselves better off, but they also typically allow consumers to benefit from higher quality products and better service provision.
- In contrast, when contract limitations are imposed on manufacturers via government intervention, the effect is typically to reduce consumer welfare as prices increase and service levels fall.
- ..., the interests of manufacturer and consumer welfare are apt to be aligned, while interference in the market is accomplished at the expense of consumers (and of course manufacturers).
Do we know
what we don’t know?
- How to generalize to other cases?
- How to test for “distant” effects?
- e.g., effects on innovation?
- How to test effects of antitrust intervention?
- Cooper, James, Luke Froeb, Daniel O'Brien, and Michael Vita, Vertical Antitrust Policy as a Problem of Inference, International Journal of Industrial Organization, 23 (2005) 639–664
- LaFontaine, Francine, and Margaret Slade, Exclusive Contracts and Vertical Restraints: Empirical Evidence and Public Policy, Handbook of Antitrust Economics, Paolo Buccirossi(ed.), Cambridge: MIT Press, forthcoming.