Collusion Along the Learning Curve: Theory and Evidence from the Semiconductor Industry
40 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2019
Date Written: July 31, 2019
This paper studies the effectiveness of collusion in the DRAM cartel. Like other high technology products, DRAM is characterized by learning-by-doing and multi-product competition. I hypothesize that collusion is more difficult to sustain on a new generation, where learning is high, than an old generation, where learning is low. A higher learning rate makes defection from a collusive equilibrium more attractive by reducing future cost. Empirical analysis exploits variation between cartelization and competition to estimate the change in firms' output decisions on each generation. Consistent with the hypothesis, cartel participants are estimated to cut output more on the oldest generation than newer generations. Output decisions on the newest generation also show evidence consistent with defection from collusive equilibria. Lastly, the paper presents a theoretical framework to analyze collusive equilibria with learning-by-doing and multi-product competition. The model motivates various pieces of evidence that competition authorities can compile to guide antitrust investigations in high technology markets.
Keywords: learning by doing, cartel, price fixing, high technology
JEL Classification: D43, L13, L41, L63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation