Price Effects of Calling Out Market Power: A Study of the COVID-19 Oil Price Shock
28 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020 Last revised: 29 Apr 2022
Date Written: April 27, 2022
Governments often make public announcements that call into question firms' misuse of market power. Yet little is known about how firms respond to them. We study gasoline retailers' price responses to antitrust announcements shaming them for price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. We identify price effects using a high-frequency event-study leveraging unique real-time station level price data and well-identified, discrete antitrust announcements. We find evidence of announcement effects that depend on firms' pre-announcement margins and hence exposure to being publicly shamed. Public statements by antitrust questioning firms' misuse of market power can indeed contain signals that affect equilibrium outcomes.
Keywords: Antitrust Announcements, Cost Pass-through, High-Frequency Event Study, Retail Gasoline
JEL Classification: L11, L13, L40, L71
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