Karen Geurts and Johannes Van Biesebroeck ‘Employment Growth following Takeovers’ (2019) The Rand Journal of Economics 50(4) 916

This paper, available here, takes a sample of takeovers in Belgium over five years, and estimates their impact on employment growth. It finds that the average merger temporarily reduces employment of the combined entity by −1.4%. However, long-term effects are markedly different. Mergers likely to be motivated by acquiring or defending market power show a stronger and permanent employment reduction of −14%, whereas those motivated by efficiency gains lead to employment expansions of +10%. Section I sets the scene. Existing research provides a range of estimates for the employment effects of mergers, with no consensus having emerged about the predominant effect of mergers on employment. Studies that find a negative effect outnumber those that find a positive effect, but all come with caveats. At the same time, the literature has long noted the potential for efficiency gains from mergers. Acquirers often argue that reduced variable costs can offset market power and lead to lower prices, which in turn can raise…

John Kwoka and Tommaso Valletti ‘Scrambled Eggs and Paralyzed Policy: Breaking Up Consummated Mergers and Dominant Firms’

Competition policy has been no obstacle to the rise of dominant firms in e-commerce, social media, online search and other important aspects of the modern digital economy. The well-documented results of these trends are increasing market concentration, entrenched dominance, diminished competition and entry, and harm to consumers and businesses alike. Competition agencies, policymakers, academics, interest groups, and others have proposed various ways of addressing the weaknesses of past policy. Most of these proposed policies involve more vigorous application of conventional tools, which, however, are unable to address current levels of market concentration. However, the most obvious solution – breaking up such firms — is generally dismissed as impractical, the equivalent of trying to unscramble eggs. The authors disagree in this paper, available here. The rationale for breaking up companies is straightforward: where the essential competitive problem with a company is its structure, in the sense that its anticompetitive behaviour flows inexorably from that structure and is otherwise difficult to prevent,…

Dagmar Schiek and Andrea Gideon on ‘Outsmarting the gig-economy through collective bargaining – EU competition law as a barrier?’ (2018) International Review of Law, Computers & Technology 32(2-3) 275

While the use of information technology can enhance personal self-determination, its use in the context of the gig-economy also creates the risk of entrenching casual, precarious and exploitative working conditions. A crucial question that arises is how far gig-workers are able to shape their work conditions. Within the sphere of employment law, the right of workers to organise collectively provides the opportunity to achieve just that. This paper, available here, aims to analyse the barriers posed by EU competition law to collective labour rights of gig-workers. It argues that EU competition law, as currently interpreted by the Court of Justice, would hinder collective organisation of those serving the gig-economy. It also advances an interpretation of the competition provisions which would allow EU competition law to adapt to recent developments in labour markets. It is structured as follows: A first section sketches the basic features of the gig-economy. The gig-economy is mainly characterised by the extensive use of IT for the distribution, allocation,…

José Azar, Ioana Marinescu and Marshall Steinbaum ‘Labour Market Concentration’ NBER Working Paper No. 24147

The paper – which can be found here – seeks to quantify the level of labour market concentration across a wide range of occupations and for almost every commuting zone in the US. In a nutshell, it finds that labour market concentration is high, and that higher concentration is associated with significantly lower posted wages. Given current high concentration levels in labour markets, mergers have the potential to significantly increase labour market power. The authors argue that this type of analysis could be used by antitrust agencies to assess whether mergers can create anti-competitive effects in labour markets. With this, they seek to challenge how little attention antitrust regulators have devoted to labour markets, despite the labour economics literature finding that firms can have substantial market power in these markets. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 describes the data and how the paper will go about measuring labour market concentration. They use proprietary data from CareerBuilder.com, the largest…

Ioana Marinescu and Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Anticompetitive Mergers in Labour Markets’ (forthcoming) Indiana Law Journal (2018)

The paper – which can be found here – looks at mergers that facilitate anticompetitive wage and salary suppression from an antitrust perspective. It also looks at other potentially anticompetitive practice in labour markets, so the paper’s title is misleading. The paper’s fundamental argument is that that antitrust law is under-enforced as regards mergers affecting employment markets, and that this is important for several reasons. First, the share of the gross domestic product (GDP) going to labour has been declining at an alarming rate, and this seems to be correlated with an increase in market concentration. Second, US antitrust law does not condemn unilateral price setting by dominant firms – including the setting of wages. A second best solution to the problem of suppressed wages can therefore be found in merger law, which can interdict wage-suppressing mergers before they occur. Third, antitrust law is properly directed at all output reducing practices, and there is certainly no principled reason for excluding…

Suresh Naidu, Eric A. Posner, and E. Glen Weyl ‘Antitrust Remedies for Labor Market Power’ Harvard Law Review (forthcoming)

The paper – which can be found here –  criticises the historic imbalance between product and labour market antitrust enforcement, which has no basis in economic theory: from an economic standpoint, the dangers to public welfare posed by product and labour market power are exactly the same. It is argued that antitrust agencies should take more seriously the danger that mergers may lead to labour market power as well as product market power. The paper is organised as follows: The introduction tries to explain why antitrust has traditionally ignored labour markets. Four explanations are advanced: (i) while economic theory treats product and labour markets similarly, legal theory has placed more emphasis on product markets as a result of a focus on consumer welfare; (ii) it was assumed that labour markets are reasonably competitive, and that labour market power was not an important social problem; (iii) the traditional legal approach to protecting workers, which took place “outside” antitrust law, may have…