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Competition through Commissions and Kickbacks

  • Roman Inderst
  • Marco Ottaviani

In markets for retail financial products and health services, consumers often rely on the advice of intermediaries to decide which specialized offering best fits their needs. Product providers, in turn, compete to influence the intermediaries' advice through hidden kickbacks or disclosed commissions. Motivated by the controversial role of these widespread practices, we formulate a model to analyze competition through commissions from a positive and normative standpoint. The model highlights the role of commissions in making the advisor responsive to supply-side incentives. We characterize situations when commonly adopted policies such as mandatory disclosure and caps on commissions have unintended welfare consequences. (JEL D21, D82, D83, G21, L15, L25)

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.102.2.780
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 780-809

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:2:p:780-809
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  1. Daylian M. Cain & George Loewenstein & Don A. Moore, 2005. "The Dirt on Coming Clean: Perverse Effects of Disclosing Conflicts of Interest," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-25, 01.
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  8. Li, Ming & Madarász, Kristóf, 2008. "When mandatory disclosure hurts: Expert advice and conflicting interests," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 139(1), pages 47-74, March.
  9. Lewis, Tracy R & Sappington, David E M, 1994. "Supplying Information to Facilitate Price Discrimination," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 35(2), pages 309-27, May.
  10. Alessandro Lizzeri, 1999. "Information Revelation and Certification Intermediaries," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 214-231, Summer.
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  12. Mark V. Pauly, 1979. "The Ethics and Economics of Kickbacks and Fee Splitting," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 344-352, Spring.
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