Empirical Methods in Competition Analysis – Applying Benford's Law to the Western Australian Petroleum Market

25 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2013

See all articles by Bernhard Rauch

Bernhard Rauch

University of Regensburg

Max Goettsche

Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt

Florian El Mouaaouy

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Business Administration (Munich School of Management)

Felix Geidel

Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt

Date Written: December 5, 2013

Abstract

In this paper, we develop a robust empirical indicator for screening and detecting statistical anomalies that may provide circumstantial evidence of explicit collusion between companies or a cartelized market. The paper deals with the question of whether in the context of forensic research on cartels a Benford test can be used to improve target selection in order to increase effectiveness and efficiency in identifying companies and markets worthy of closer scrutiny. In various contexts it has been shown that a deviation from the Benford distribution can indicate fraud or data manipulation. We apply Benford’s law to released price data of the Western Australian petroleum market from 2004 to 2012. We show that the deviation from the Benford distribution in relative margin changes is positively correlated with well known indicators of collusion and conclude that anti-competitive behavior can be identified by the Benford method. Moreover, we identify periods, brands and petroleum products showing a concentration of notably higher deviations from Benford’s law.

Keywords: Benford's law, Petroleum market, Fraud detection, Manipulation, Collusion, Cartel detection, Conspiracies

JEL Classification: C16, K21, L41

Suggested Citation

Rauch, Bernhard and Goettsche, Max and El Mouaaouy, Florian and Geidel, Felix, Empirical Methods in Competition Analysis – Applying Benford's Law to the Western Australian Petroleum Market (December 5, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2364384 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2364384

Bernhard Rauch (Contact Author)

University of Regensburg ( email )

93040 Regensburg
D-93040 Regensburg, 93053
Germany

Max Goettsche

Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt ( email )

Auf der Schanz 49
Ingolstadt, D-85049
Germany

Florian El Mouaaouy

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Business Administration (Munich School of Management) ( email )

Schackstraße 4
Munich, 80539
Germany

Felix Geidel

Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt ( email )

Auf der Schanz 49
Ingolstadt, D-85049
Germany

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