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A Critique of Partial Leniency for Cartels
by the U.S. Department of Justice

58 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2007 Last revised: 9 Jun 2008

John M. Connor

American Antitrust Institute (AAI)


This paper models a key outcome of secret negotiations: partial-leniency fine discounts from plea bargaining in criminal price-fixing cases. Models tested explain up to 52% of variation in percentage discounts. A minor portion is explained by such defendants characteristics as the defendants rank in queue and delay in settling. Most variation is explained by cartel characteristics. International conspiracies, global cartels, and bid-rigging schemes are granted lower percentage than domestic price-fixing. Discounts were higher in the Bush II than in the Clinton administration. Participants in durable conspiracies are rewarded with larger discounts, but more severe treatment of recidivists cannot be detected.

Keywords: antitrust, cartel, price fixing, deterrence, penalties, fines, discounts, Department of Justice

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

Suggested Citation

Connor, John M., A Critique of Partial Leniency for Cartels by the U.S. Department of Justice. Available at SSRN: or

John M. Connor (Contact Author)

American Antitrust Institute (AAI) ( email )

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