Albert Sanchez-Graells ‘Competition and Public Procurement’ (2018) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 9(8) 55

This piece, available here, surveys the interaction between competition and public procurement law in Europe. It is structured as follows: Section II looks at recent examples of competition enforcement against bid rigging. Competition law enforcement in public procurement settings remains a top enforcement priority for competition authorities in Europe. This is not only clear in the practice of the European Commission, but is also demonstrated by a continuous string of cases brought all over Europe. Recent examples of this can be found in Poland (car towing and parking services), Belgium (railway infrastructure), Latvia (security services, distribution of professional stage equipment), Ireland (retail distribution), Greece (construction), Italy (consulting services), Lithuania (construction), Denmark (construction, passenger transportation), Romania (electricity consumption equipment), or Spain (advertising services). A continued focus on competition enforcement against bid-rigging seems adequate, given the continued trend towards less competitive tenders for public contracts over the last decade or so—in part, as a result of procurement aggregation strategies, but also as a result…

David Imhof, Yavuz Karagök and Samuel Rutz on ‘Screening For Bid Rigging—Does It Work?’ (2018) Journal of Competition Law & Economics 14(2) 235

The title of this paper, available here, is a bit misleading, since individuals who developed a screening tool for the Swiss competition authority wrote it, and the paper is devoted to describing how the method works and how successful it has been in practice. To summarise, the paper proposes a method to detect bid rigging that is particularly suited to address the problem of partial collusion, i.e. collusion that does not involve all firms and/or all contracts in a specific dataset. It explains how the authors applied mutually reinforcing screens to a Swiss road construction procurement dataset in which no prior information about collusion was available, and how this method succeeded in isolating a group of “suspicious” firms. It further describes how the screen led the Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) to opening an investigation and sanctioning the identified “suspicious” firms for bid rigging. The paper is structured as follows: Section II presents literature on screening methods. The growing literature on cartel…

Martin Huber and David Imhof ‘Machine Learning with Screens for Detecting Bid-Rigging Cartels’ (2019) International Journal of Industrial Organization

This paper, available here, combines machine-learning techniques with statistical screens computed from the distribution of bids in tenders within the Swiss construction sector to predict collusion through bid-rigging cartels, leading to a correct classification of 84% of bidding processes as collusive or non-collusive out of 584 tenders. The paper is structured follows: Section 2 reviews the data set. The data includes four bid-rigging cartels, comprising 584 tenders in the Swiss road construction sector with 3,799 bids for a market volume of roughly 370 million Swiss francs. For each cartel, the dataset allows one to observe collusive cartel periods as well as competitive post-cartel periods. In doing so, the dataset is ideal for detecting bid-rigging cartels, in that it reflects periods of undisputed collusion and periods of undisputed competition. Collusive agreements were comparable across the four bid-rigging cartels. In all four cartels, the procurement procedure was based on a first-price sealed bid auction. The cartels required two steps: first, to designate…

Robert D. Anderson, Alison Jones and Bill Kovacic ‘Preventing Corruption, Supplier Collusion and the Corrosion of Civic Trust: A Procompetitive Program to Improve the Effectiveness and Legitimacy of Public Procurement’ (forthcoming, George Mason Law Review)

You can find this paper here. There is also a shorter version of the paper available here. Governments around the world spend an estimated US$9.5 trillion on goods and services each year. This accounts for roughly one third of government expenditures (29.1% on average in OECD countries) and 10% to 20% of total gross domestic product (“GDP”) in many nations. Furthermore, public procurement is an essential input to the delivery of broader public services and functions of government that are vital for growth, development and social welfare. The special procedures that characterise public procurement are necessary in light of the principal-agent problem and moral hazards that public procurement entails. Conventional responses to the problems of corruption and supplier collusion in public procurement comprise two broad sets of tools. The first, focusing on corruption issues, involves measures to increase the transparency of public procurement and to strengthen the accountability of responsible public officials for malfeasance. The second, aimed at preventing supplier collusion,…

John Connor and Dan Werner  ‘Variation in Bid-Rigging Cartels’ Overcharges: An Exploratory Study’

This working paper  is available here. A summary version, called ‘New Research on the Effectiveness of Bidding Rings: Implications for Competition Policies’ (2019) CPI Antitrust Chronicle April,  can be found here but I have to say I found this shorter version to be slightly confusing, so I would advise you to read the longer paper. There seems to be a consensus that bid rigging is more harmful and deserving of higher penalties than ordinary price fixing violations. Reflecting this, there is empirical evidence that antitrust penalties are more severe for rings than for classic price-fixing cartels. A number of jurisdictions, such as Germany and Italy, impose criminal liability only for bid rigging infringements, but not for other types of cartel. Multilateral organisations, such as the OECD and the International Competition Network, have given special attention to the problems of enforcement against bid rigging. Yet, this antipathy toward bid rigging relative to the more common form of collusive conduct (classic price…