Measuring the Incentive to Collude: The Vitamin Cartels, 1990-1999
87 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2016 Last revised: 10 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 9, 2021
Do mergers help or hinder collusion? This paper studies the stability of the vitamin cartels in the 1990s and presents a repeated-games approach to quantify "coordinated effects" of a merger. We use data and direct evidence from American courts and European agencies to show the collusive incentive of the short-lived vitamin C cartel was likely to be negative when it actually collapsed in 1995, whereas the incentives of the long-lived cartels (vitamins A and E, and beta carotene) were unambiguously positive until the prosecution in 1999. Simulations suggest some mergers could have prolonged the vitamin C cartel, but others could have further destabilized it, because both the direction and magnitude of coordinated effects depend not only on the number of firms but also on their cost asymmetry.
Keywords: Antitrust, Cartel, Collusion, Coordinated effect, Merger, Repeated game
JEL Classification: D43, L13, L41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation