Determinants of EC Antitrust Fines for Members of Global Cartels
44 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2013 Last revised: 9 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 6, 2013
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.
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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