Richard N. Langlois ‘Hunting the Big Five: Twenty-first Century Antitrust in Historical Perspective’

In this paper – available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3124356 – the author considers that proponents of the New Brandeis movement in antitrust are animated by a perception that antitrust is not fit for purpose in the digital age. He considers that this movement is arguing for a return to an earlier age of greater interventionism and greater focus on market structures – which is why he calls this movement ‘new structuralism’. Given this focus, proponents of this movement also advocate for a complete overthrow of the Chicago school paradigm, with its anti-interventionist bias. The author’s argument is that the New Brandeis School gets its History wrong, misconceives the nature of the competitive process, and deliberately refuses to confront the political economy of antitrust. He builds his argument as a rebuttal of Lisa Kahn’s article on Amazon (which I circulated and discussed on 3 March 2017). In the interest of clarity, I will ignore that part of the argument when reviewing the paper,…

Herbert Hovenkamp “Whatever Did Happen to the Antitrust Movement?”

This paper argues that recent claims to the effect that antitrust should be used to combat a variety of social ills – such as industrial concentration, the economic or political power of large firms, the maldistribution of wealth, high profits, low wages, or the absence of policies protecting small business – are not new. Such claims have appeared and reappeared periodically in the history of antitrust, and amount to a rhetorical use of antitrust for promoting various societal goals which must be distinguished from the technical enterprise of antitrust. There is between these two dimensions of antitrust an unsurmountable contradiction, as the main goal of the antitrust enterprise (lower prices, larger output, etc.) will often be at odds with the rhetorical uses of antitrust (e.g. protecting small businesses). The paper is structured as follows: A first section looks at the virtues and defects of technical antitrust. “Technical antitrust” refers to: “a set of antitrust rules that begin with a picture…

Ajinkya M. Tulpule ‘Compliance And Enforcement in a Blockchain(ed) World’

This paper,  by a senior staff member of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, is the first attempt I know of to address the implications of the blockchain for competition law. It can be found here: https://www.competitionpolicyinternational.com/compliance-and-enforcement-in-a-blockchained-world/ The paper first defines key terms to ensure that the reader understands the main concepts related to the blockchain, which are obscure to the uninitiated – concepts such as “distributed ledger”, ‘smart contract”, and, let’s be honest, “blockchain”. A second section then lists the potential benefits of blockchain technologies in the enforcement of competition law. According to the author, the most pertinent utility of a blockchain in competition enforcement is likely to be related to obtaining and processing large volumes of transactional and non-transactional data – which can be relevant for merger control, cartel investigations and, at a minimum, for monitoring commitments in abuse of dominance matters. The third and last section is devoted to the potential of the blockchain for the implementation of competition…

Massimo Motta and Chiara Fumagalli ‘On the use of price-cost tests in loyalty discounts and exclusive dealing arrangements: Which implications from economic theory should be drawn?;

You can find this paper in (2017) Antitrust Law Journal, 81(2): 537–85. The paper looks at  loyalty rebates and the use of price cost tests. It begins by describing recent European and American case law on the matter, and highlights differences in the judicial approaches on both sides of the Atlantic (i.e. the classic distinction between European formalism and American effects-based tests). The authors then distinguish between economic tests of predation and exclusionary rebates, while noting that both include common economic mechanisms that can involve sacrificing profits.In the last and most important section, they argue that rebates and contracts containing conditions regarding how much buyers purchase from rival suppliers can raise serious anti-competitive concerns. From this point of view, a stricter treatment of exclusive contracts and some loyalty discounts might be justified – which may imply that evidence of above-cost prices may work as a safe harbour for predation, but not for exclusive dealing and loyalty rebates. Overall, I think…

Frederic Jenny ‘Abuse of dominance by firms charging excessive or unfair prices: an assessment’

This is a paper by Fred Jenny  for the Israeli competition authority on excessive pricing – the competition law infraction that refuses to die, and is arguably making a comeback. The paper can be found at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2880382. It reviews the debate that has taken place among economists on what the definition of excessive prices could be and whether the control of excessive prices by competition authorities would in fact promote or discourage competition. The paper is structured as follows: Section I takes stock of the enforcement activities of competition authorities against high prices (or the lack of enforcement) in a number of countries; Section II analyses the general arguments in favour or against the enforcement of provisions sanctioning excessive pricing abuses by dominant companies or monopolies; Section III examines the risks associated with wrongful decisions by competition authorities in this area and the cost of such errors; Section IV analyses the economic screens which have been proposed by various economists to…