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Showing 9 of 150 Publications in Antitrust & Consumer ProtectionScholarship
Scholarship Abstract The recent increase in the demand for expert economic analysis in antitrust litigation has improved the welfare of economists; however, the law and economics . . .
The recent increase in the demand for expert economic analysis in antitrust litigation has improved the welfare of economists; however, the law and economics literature is silent on the effects of economic complexity or judges’ economic training on judicial decision-making. We use a unique data set on antitrust litigation in federal district and administrative courts during 1996-2006 to examine whether economic complexity impacts antitrust decisions, and provide a novel test of the hypothesis that antitrust analysis has become too complex for generalist judges. We also examine the impact of basic economic training by judges. We find that decisions involving the evaluation of complex economic evidence are significantly more likely to be appealed, and decisions of judges trained in basic economics are significantly less likely to be appealed than are decisions by their untrained counterparts. Our analysis supports the hypothesis that some antitrust cases are too complicated for generalist judges.
Scholarship The antitrust landscape changed dramatically in the last decade. Within the last two years alone, the Department of Justice has held hearings on the appropriate scope of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and has issued, then repudiated, a comprehensive Report.
The antitrust landscape changed dramatically in the last decade. Within the last two years alone, the Department of Justice has held hearings on the appropriate scope of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and has issued, then repudiated, a comprehensive Report. During the same time, the European Commission has become an aggressive leader in single?firm conduct enforcement by bringing abuse of dominance actions and assessing heavy fines against firms including Qualcomm, Intel, and Microsoft. In the United States, two of the most significant characteristics of the new antitrust approach have been the increased focus on innovative companies in high?tech industries and the diminished concern that erroneous antitrust interventions will hinder economic growth. This focus on high?tech industries is dangerous, and the concerns regarding erroneous interventions should not be dismissed too lightly.
This Article offers a comprehensive, cautionary tale in the context of a detailed factual, legal, and economic analysis of the next Microsoft: the theoretical, but perhaps imminent, enforcement against Google. Close scrutiny of the complex economics of Google’s disputed technology and business practices reveals a range of procompetitive explanations. Economic complexity and ambiguity, coupled with an insufficiently deferential approach to innovative technology and pricing practices in the most relevant case law, portend a potentially erroneous—and costly—result.
Our analysis, by contrast, embraces the cautious and evidence?based approach to uncertainty, complexity, and dynamic innovation contained within the well?established error?cost framework. As we demonstrate, though there is an abundance of error?cost concern in the Supreme Court precedent, there is a real risk that the current, aggressive approach to antitrust error, coupled with the uncertain economics of Google’s innovative conduct, will yield a costly intervention. The point is not that we know that Google’s conduct is procompetitive, but rather that the very uncertainty surrounding it counsels caution, not aggression.
Scholarship Abstract Antitrust is back in vogue at the U.S. Supreme Court. Whereas the Rehnquist Court decided few antitrust cases in its latter years (only one . . .
Antitrust is back in vogue at the U.S. Supreme Court. Whereas the Rehnquist Court decided few antitrust cases in its latter years (only one from 1993 to 1995, one each year from 1996 through 1999, and none from 2000 to 2003), the Roberts Court issued seven antitrust decisions in its first two years alone. Numerous commentators have characterized the Roberts Court’s antitrust decisions as radical departures that betray a pro-business, anti-consumer bias. While some of the decisions do represent significant changes from past practice (see, e.g., Leegin, which overruled the 1911 Dr. Miles rule of per se illegality for minimum resale price maintenance, and Twombly, which abrogated the infamous “no set of facts” pleading standard set forth in the 1957 Conley v. Gibson decision), the “pro-business/anti-consumer” characterization of the Roberts Court’s antitrust decisions is inaccurate. The characterization – caricature, really – fails to appreciate the fundamental limits of antitrust, a body of law that requires judges and juries to make fine distinctions between procompetitive and anticompetitive behaviors that frequently resemble each other. While false acquittals of anticompetitive conduct may harm consumers, so may false convictions of procompetitive actions. And efforts to eliminate errors in liability judgments are themselves costly. Optimal antitrust rules will therefore aim to minimize the sum of decision costs (the costs of reaching a liability decision) and expected error costs (the social losses from false convictions and false acquittals). Each of the Roberts Court’s antitrust decisions can be defended in light of this “decision-theoretic” approach, an approach calculated to maximize the effectiveness of the antitrust enterprise, to the ultimate benefit of consumers. This Article first describes the fundamental limits of antitrust and the decision-theoretic approach such limits inspire. It then analyzes the Roberts Court’s antitrust decisions, explaining how each coheres with the decision-theoretic model. Finally, it predicts how the Court will address three issues likely to come before it in the future: tying, loyalty rebates, and bundled discounts.
Scholarship Abstract Antitrust observers and football fans alike awaited the Supreme Court’s decision in American Needle v. National Football League for months – inspiring over a . . .
Antitrust observers and football fans alike awaited the Supreme Court’s decision in American Needle v. National Football League for months – inspiring over a dozen articles, and even one from the quarterback of the defending champion New Orleans Saints. Yet the implications of the Court’s decision, effectively narrowing the scope of the “intra-enterprise immunity” doctrine to firms with a complete “unity of interests,” are unclear. While some depict the decision as a schism from the last several decades of antitrust law, we explain why this interpretation is meritless and discuss the practical impact of the Court’s holding. The Court’s antitrust jurisprudence over the past several decades, including that of the Roberts Court and American Needle, has broadly embraced rules that are both relatively easy to administer as well as conscious of the error costs of deterring pro-competitive conduct. Intra-enterprise immunity potentially provided such a “filter” that enabled judges to dismiss a non-trivial subset of meritless claims prior to costly discovery. The doctrine, however, proved notoriously difficult to consistently apply in situations involving common organizational structures. Consistent with error-cost principles that have been the lodestar of the Court’s recent antitrust output, American Needle gave the Court an opportunity to effectively abandon intra-enterprise immunity in favor of the Twombly “plausibility” standard. Rather than marking a drastic change in antitrust jurisprudence, therefore, American Needle should be viewed as the Supreme Court substituting an unreliable screening mechanism in favor of a more cost-effective alternative.
Scholarship Abstract The market definition analysis endorsed by the 2010 Proposed Horizontal Merger Guidelines (“new HMGs”) tends toward narrower relevant markets. Because the merging parties cannot . . .
The market definition analysis endorsed by the 2010 Proposed Horizontal Merger Guidelines (“new HMGs”) tends toward narrower relevant markets. Because the merging parties cannot point to the consumer gains outside of the narrowly defined product market, the new approach could lead to Section 7 liability for mergers that result in net increases in consumer welfare. This “out of market” efficiency problem obviously does not originate with the new HMGs, nor with the HMGs at all. However, the value of diversion approach to market definition is likely to dramatically increase its practical significance. Failure to incorporate “out of market” efficiencies into merger analysis flies in the face of the modern trend in favor of analyzing actual competitive effects rather than adopting simplifying and potentially misleading proxies. Further, the value of diversion approach adopted by the new HMGs is likely to increase the need for guidance on this score. This comment proposed that the new HMGs amend note 11 to make clear that they would not bring enforcement actions where the Agencies can prove anticompetitive effects in a narrower market, but where the evidence also supports the conclusion that out of market efficiencies are sufficient to eliminate consumer harm in the aggregate. A commitment to forbear from challenging mergers where out of market efficiencies outweigh anticompetitive effects merely updates the new HMGs in a manner consistent with the modern intellectual foundation of merger analysis.
Scholarship Abstract The Twenty-first Amendment repealed prohibition, but granted the states broad power to regulate the distribution and sale of alcohol to consumers within their borders. . . .
The Twenty-first Amendment repealed prohibition, but granted the states broad power to regulate the distribution and sale of alcohol to consumers within their borders. Pursuant to this authority, states have established a complex web of regulations that limit the ability of beer, wine, and liquor producers to control the distribution of their product. From a consumer welfare perspective, one of the most potentially harmful state alcohol distribution regulations are “post and hold” laws (“PH laws”). PH laws require that alcohol distributors share future prices with rivals by “posting” them in advance, and then “hold” these prices for a specified period of time. Economic theory would suggest that PH laws reduce unilateral incentives for distributors to reduce prices and may facilitate tacit or explicit collusion, both to the detriment of consumers. Consistent with economic theory, we show that the PH laws reduce consumption by 2-8 percent. We also test whether PH laws provide offsetting benefits in the form of reducing a range of social harms associated with alcohol consumption. We find no evidence of such offsetting benefits. Taken together these results suggest that PH laws are socially harmful and result only in a wealth transfer from marginal alcohol consumers, who are unlikely to exert externalities on society, to wholesalers. These results also suggest a socially beneficial role for antitrust challenges to PH laws and similar anticompetitive state regulation. If states wish to reduce the social ills associated with drinking, our results suggest that increasing taxes and directly targeting social harms are superior policy instruments to PH laws.
ICLE White Paper Abstract The Federal Trade Commission’s recent complaint targets the Intel Corporation for antitrust scrutiny under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and Section . . .
The Federal Trade Commission’s recent complaint targets the Intel Corporation for antitrust scrutiny under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and Section 2 of the Sherman Act. The Commission alleges that, through the use of loyalty discounts offered to microprocessor purchasers, Intel unlawfully excluded rivals and harmed consumers in the microprocessor and graphics processor markets. This article analyzes the Commission’s claims. The Commission’s reliance on Section 5 should be viewed with suspicion because it allows the Commission to evade the more stringent standards of proof that have been emerged in the Supreme Court’s Section 2 jurisprudence. Furthermore, the Commission’s actions surrounding its prosecution of Intel reflect an adversarial attitude that undermines the Commission’s stated comparative advantages over private litigants. Moreover, the Commission’s allegations form a weak case when evaluated under the conventional Section 2 standard. Unlike many Section 2 cases alleging speculative future consumer harm, the disputed conduct in this case has been in the marketplace for nearly a decade, and its competitive footprint is readily observable. The available data do not support the Commission’s theory that Intel’s behavior harmed consumers. To the contrary, it is almost certain that Intel’s distribution contracts led to tangible, demonstrable consumer welfare gains in the form of lower prices. Accordingly, the Commission’s complaint against Intel threatens to harm consumers directly in the computer industry as well as indirectly by undermining the stability and certainly which longstanding Section 2 jurisprudence has afforded the business community by requiring the plaintiffs offer rigorous proof of competitive harm.
Scholarship Abstract State Consumer Protection Acts (CPAs) were designed to supplement the Federal Trade Commission’s mission of protecting consumers and are often referred to as “little-FTC . . .
State Consumer Protection Acts (CPAs) were designed to supplement the Federal Trade Commission’s mission of protecting consumers and are often referred to as “little-FTC Acts.” There is growing concern that enforcement under these acts is not only qualitatively different than FTC enforcement, but may be counterproductive for consumers. This article examines a sample of CPA claims and compares them to the FTC standard. It identifies qualitative differences between CPA and FTC claims by commissioning a “Shadow Federal Trade Commission” of experts in consumer protection. The study finds that many CPA claims include conduct that would not be illegal under the FTC standards and that most of the cases with illegal conduct would not warrant FTC enforcement. Even among CPA cases where the plaintiff prevailed, nearly half do not include illegal conduct under the FTC standard and most of the cases with illegal conduct would not invoke FTC enforcement. The results clearly suggest private litigation under little-FTC Acts tends to pursue a different consumer protection mission than the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission.
Scholarship Abstract There are very few industries that can attract the attention of Congress, multiple federal and state agencies, consumer groups, economists, antitrust lawyers, the business . . .
There are very few industries that can attract the attention of Congress, multiple federal and state agencies, consumer groups, economists, antitrust lawyers, the business community, farmers, ranchers, and academics as the agriculture workshops have. Of course, with intense interest from stakeholders comes intense pressure from potential winners and losers in the political process, heated disagreement over how gains from trade should be distributed among various stakeholders, and certainly a variety of competing views over the correct approach to competition policy in agriculture markets. These pressures have the potential to distract antitrust analysis from its core mission: protecting competition and consumer welfare. While imperfect, the economic approach to antitrust that has generated remarkable improvements in outcomes over the last fifty years has rejected simplistic and misleading notions that antitrust is meant to protect “small dealers and worthy men” or to fulfill non-economic objectives; that market concentration is a predictor of market performance; or that competition policy and intellectual property cannot peacefully co-exist. Unfortunately, in the run-up to and during the workshops much of the policy rhetoric encouraged adopting these outdated antitrust approaches, especially ones that would favor one group of stakeholders over another rather than protecting the competitive process. In this essay, we argue that a first principles approach to antitrust analysis is required to guarantee the benefits of competition in the agricultural sector, and discuss three fundamental principles of modern antitrust that, at times, appear to be given short-shrift in the recent debate.