The Predictability of DOJ Cartel Fines

25 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2016

See all articles by John M. Connor

John M. Connor

Purdue University; American Antitrust Institute (AAI)

Douglas J. Miller

University of Missouri at Columbia - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 2013


For criminal violations of the Sherman Act, although guided by federal sentencing guidelines, U.S. Department of Justice has great latitude in recommending corporate cartel fines to the federal courts, and its recommendations are nearly always determinative. In this paper, we analyze the determinants of variation in size of criminal fines imposed by the Antitrust Division of the DOJ on 124 corporate participants of hard-core global cartels. Our behavioral model provides the first direct test of the optimal deterrence theory of antitrust crimes.

Regressions are fitted to a sample of the corporations that participated in international cartels and that were fined between 1996 and March 2010. The predictive power of the optimal-deterrence model is quite good. We find that U.S. corporate cartel fines are strongly directly related to economic injuries from collusion. However, U.S. fines do not conform to the theory’s predictions about the probability of detection and conviction of clandestine cartels. We also find that fines complement other antitrust penalties: the number of months that a corporate defendant’s managers are sentenced to prison and private damages paid.

Keywords: Antitrust, Sherman Act, DOJ, Antitrust Division, Cartel, Collusion, Price-Fixing, Optimal Deterrence, Fines, Penalties

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

Suggested Citation

Connor, John M. and Connor, John M. and Miller, Douglas J., The Predictability of DOJ Cartel Fines (March 2013). Available at SSRN: or

John M. Connor (Contact Author)

Purdue University ( email )

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American Antitrust Institute (AAI) ( email )

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Douglas J. Miller

University of Missouri at Columbia - Department of Economics ( email )

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