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Anatomy of the Rise and Fall of a Price-Fixing Conspiracy: Auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

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  • Orley Ashenfelter
  • Kathryn Graddy

Abstract

The Sotheby's–Christie's price-fixing scandal that ended in the public trial of Alfred Taubman provides a unique window on a number of key economic and antitrust policy issues. The trial provided detailed evidence as to how the price-fixing worked, and the economic conditions under which it was started and began to fall apart. The role of the amnesty program was important to the case, and does not appear to have had a role in the cartel's enforcement of price-fixing or the cartel's demise. The outcome of the case also provides evidence on the auction process used to choose the lead counsel for the civil settlement. Finally, though buyers received the bulk of the damages, a straightforward application of the economic theory of auctions shows that it is unlikely that successful buyers as a group were injured.

Suggested Citation

  • Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2005. "Anatomy of the Rise and Fall of a Price-Fixing Conspiracy: Auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's," Journal of Competition Law and Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 3-20.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jcomle:v:1:y:2005:i:1:p:3-20.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/joclec/nhi003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Motta, Massimo & Polo, Michele, 2003. "Leniency programs and cartel prosecution," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 347-379, March.
    2. Block, Michael Kent & Nold, Frederick Carl, 1981. "The Deterrent Effect of Antitrust Enforcement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 429-445, June.
    3. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1986. "A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Price Wars during Booms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 390-407, June.
    4. Robert H. Porter, 1983. "A Study of Cartel Stability: The Joint Executive Committee, 1880-1886," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 301-314, Autumn.
    5. Mukesh Eswaran, 1997. "Cartel Unity over the Business Cycle," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 30(3), pages 644-672, August.
    6. Victor Ginsburgh & Patrick Legros & Nicolas Sahuguet, 2004. "How to Win Twice at an Auction. On the Incidence of Commissions in Auction Markets," Working Papers 2004.146, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    7. Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
    8. Posner, Richard A, 1970. "A Statistical Study of Antitrust Enforcement," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 365-419, October.
    9. Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2003. "Auctions and the Price of Art," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(3), pages 763-787, September.
    10. Ashenfelter, Orley, 1989. "How Auctions Work for Wine and Art," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 23-36, Summer.
    11. Margaret C. Levenstein & Valerie Y. Suslow, 2002. "What Determines Cartel Success?," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2002-01, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    12. Gallet, Craig A. & Schroeter, John R., 1995. "The Effects of the Business Cycle on Oligopoly Coordination: Evidence from the U.S. Rayon Industry," Staff General Research Papers Archive 5250, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2011. "Art Auctions," Chapters, in: Ruth Towse (ed.), A Handbook of Cultural Economics, Second Edition, chapter 2, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Calin Valsan & Robert Sproule, 2008. "Reservation Prices And Pre-Auction Estimates: A Study In Abstract Art," The AMFITEATRU ECONOMIC journal, Academy of Economic Studies - Bucharest, Romania, vol. 10(24), pages 257-272, June.
    3. Joseph E. Harrington, Jr, 2006. "How Do Cartels Operate?," Economics Working Paper Archive 531, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
    4. repec:eee:jbrese:v:98:y:2019:i:c:p:475-488 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices

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