Suppose you were building a cartel -- a group of business interests who coordinate to fix high prices that consumers must pay. How would you design it? Received economic wisdom says transparency among cartel members is crucial: If colluding suppliers share information, they can keep prices high and monitor members of the cartel to make sure no one deviates from the cartel's norms.
Given the prevailing notion that data-sharing helps cartels, firms investigated for price-fixing can argue that they must not be illegally colluding if the evidence shows they have not been extensively sharing information with other businesses.
本文，“维护卡特尔隐私，”是菅谷拓夫，在业务的斯坦福大学商学院副教授，和Wolitzky，在经济学的麻省理工学院的系副教授;它出现在的十二月号Journal of Political Economy.
What's the whole story?
Sugaya and Wolitzky do not deny that a degree of transparency among cartel members helps collusion occur, but they complicate this picture by introducing alternate circumstances, in which less transparency helps cartels thrive and more transparency undercuts them.
"We're investigating the generality of this [older] result, and whether it tells the whole story," says Wolitzky.
通过学者文章围绕建立勾结的“家庭市场的原则”，其中卡特尔减少产品在对方市场上竞争力的供应导向的企业行为的新模式 - 这通常可以通过地理范围进行分割。北美和欧洲的企业在同行业中，在这种情况下，将对方的领土望而却步，从而减少竞争。
在这项研究中,作者contend that there are three effects that increased transparency has on cartels. Transparency within cartels enables firms to keep each other in check, and it helps them coordinate prices -- but it also "lets individual firms tailor deviations to current market conditions," as they write in the paper.
This last point, Sugaya and Wolizky assert, has been seriously underexplored by scholars in the past. In the model they propose, the "deviation gain" -- what happens when a firms leaves the cartel -- "is strictly larger when all prices and quantities are observable," that is, when the firm has more information about its erstwhile collaborators.
The proposition that a relative lack of information-sharing coexists with collusion is not just an arbitrary function of the authors' model, but something supported by empirical evidence as well, as they note in the paper. The European Commission, for instance, has uncovered several cartels that seemingly made a point of limiting transparency: The firms in question largely shared just industry-wide sales data among all members, not extensive firm-level data.
These low-transparency cartels include industries such as plasterboard production, copper plumbing tube manufacturing, and plastics -- all of whom structured their collusion operations around intermediaries. Those intermediaries -- industry associations, in some cases -- handled the sensitive information and only distributed small portions of it to the individual firms.
A more vivid example comes from a graphite manufacturing cartel, as Sugaya and Wolitzky recount. At a meeting of cartel representatives, each member secretly entered their own sales data into a calculator passed around the room, in such a way that the firms could only learn the industry-wide sales volume, not the specific sales data of each firm.
To be sure, the new theory developed by the scholars does not propose a uniform relationship between transparency and collusion; it all depends on the circumstances.
"It would be nice to have a very thorough characterization of when more information among cartel members makes colluding easier, and when it makes it harder," Wolitzky says.
Cite This Page: