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Determinants of EC Antitrust Fines for Members of Global Cartels


John M. Connor


Purdue University; American Antitrust Institute (AAI)

Douglas J. Miller


University of Missouri at Columbia - Department of Economics

March 6, 2013


Abstract:     
In this paper, we estimate quantitatively the determinants of variation in administrative fines imposed on companies by the European Commission for price-fixing violations. Estimates from our behavioral model provide the first direct test of the predictive power of the optimal deterrence theory of antitrust violations in the EU. In addition, they offer insights into other determinants of the EC’s leniency program for cartels and its effectiveness.

Regressions are fitted to a sample of 204 corporate participants of hard-core global cartels fined between 1990 and early 2010 to explain variation in the absolute Commission fine. Independent variables fall into four groups: the extent of the cartel’s antitrust injuries; factors that affect the probability of detection and conviction by antitrust authorities; the size of non-EC penalties on the cartel; and controls for time, for changes in EC guidelines, for nationality of the defendant, and for industry-specific characteristics. The predictive power of the final model is quite satisfactory.

We find that EC corporate cartel fines generally follow the precepts of optimal deterrence theory and the EC’s Fining Guidelines. Fines are directly related to economic injuries from collusion and inversely related to proxies for factors that increase the probability of detection and conviction of clandestine cartels. The elasticity of expected fine with respect to harm is 0.32, hence ex post sub-optimal. Expected fines are directly related to recidivism and increase by roughly 80% under the 2006 revised Guidelines.

However, we also find evidence that the Commission either deviates from optimal deterrence principles or follows practices unmentioned in its Fining Guidelines. Expected fines increase as other penalties (including fines levied by other governments, private fines, and the number of executives charged or sanctioned) increase and are much higher for North American firms.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: antitrust, European Commission, EU, cartel, collusion, price-fixing, optimal deterrence, penalties, leniency, amnesty

JEL Classification: L41, L44, L65, L11, L13, N60, K21, K14

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Date posted: March 7, 2013 ; Last revised: March 9, 2013

Suggested Citation

Connor, John M. and Miller, Douglas J., Determinants of EC Antitrust Fines for Members of Global Cartels (March 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2229358 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2229358

Contact Information

John M. Connor (Contact Author)
Purdue University ( email )
610 Purdue Mall
West Lafayette, IN 47906
United States
+1 765-494-4600 (Phone)
American Antitrust Institute (AAI)
2919 Ellicott Street, N.W.
Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20008-1022
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.antitrustinstitute.com
Douglas J. Miller
University of Missouri at Columbia - Department of Economics ( email )
118 Professional Building
Columbia, MO 65211
United States
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