To Thine Own Self Be True: Asymmetric Information in Procurement Auctions

44 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2018 Last revised: 29 Nov 2019

See all articles by Joel O. Wooten

Joel O. Wooten

University of South Carolina - Department of Management Science

Joan M. Donohue

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business

Timothy Fry

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business

Kathleen M. Whitcomb

University of South Carolina - Department of Management

Date Written: November 25, 2019

Abstract

As procurement auctions increasingly move to digital platforms, more data and information is available (or can be made available) to bidders. Despite this trend, relatively little is known about the impact of information asymmetries in these settings. We investigate two such differences in first-price sealed-bid reverse auctions with a common value. In a design that mirrors real construction procurement auctions, our laboratory experiment tests the impact of the precision of a bidder’s cost estimate and the degree to which bidders know the inherent cost estimate precisions in the auction. We find that more understanding of estimate precision decreases bidder profit, counter to our expectation; however, we also find evidence of strategic behavior from those bidders that ratchets up pressure on competitors and pushes competitors toward bankruptcy. Most notably, understanding just one’s own precision can help avoid the winner’s curse in some settings. The same result does not apply if bidders also know their competitor’s precision; more information does not help. The implication from our realistic setting – that reduced uncertainty may not help – raises important questions about the degree of transparency that is optimal in procurement auctions.

Keywords: procurement auctions, winner's curse, asymmetric information, experiment

JEL Classification: D44, C91, M2

Suggested Citation

Wooten, Joel O. and Donohue, Joan M. and Fry, Timothy and Whitcomb, Kathleen M., To Thine Own Self Be True: Asymmetric Information in Procurement Auctions (November 25, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3107682 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3107682

Joel O. Wooten (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Department of Management Science ( email )

United States

Joan M. Donohue

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business ( email )

1705 College St
Francis M. Hipp Building
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Timothy Fry

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business ( email )

1705 College St
Francis M. Hipp Building
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Kathleen M. Whitcomb

University of South Carolina - Department of Management ( email )

United States

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