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Optimal Fines in the Era of Whistleblowers


  • Buccirossi, Paolo
  • Spagnolo, Giancarlo


We review current methods for calculating fines against cartels in the US and EU, and simulate their deterrence effects under different assumptions on the legal and economic environment. It is likely that European fines have not had significant deterrence effects before leniency programs were introduced. Previous simulations of the effects of fines ignore the different type of deterrence that leniency programs bring about, and, therefore, grossly overstate the minimum fine likely to have deterrence effects. With schemes that reward whistleblowers, the minimum fine with deterrence effects falls to extremely low levels (below 10% of the optimal "Beckerian" fine). Strategic judgement-proofness can and should be prevented by suitable regulation or extended liability. Criminal sanctions, in the form of imprisonment, certainly bring benefits (and costs) in terms of cartel deterrence, but the firms’ limited ability to pay does not appear any longer such a strong argument for their introduction.

Suggested Citation

  • Buccirossi, Paolo & Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2006. "Optimal Fines in the Era of Whistleblowers," CEPR Discussion Papers 5465, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5465

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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Growitsch & Nicole Nulsch & Margarethe Rammerstorfer, 2012. "Preventing innovative cooperations: the legal exemptions unintended side effect," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 1-22, February.
    2. Yannis Katsoulacos & David Ulph, 2016. "Legal uncertainty, competition law enforcement procedures and optimal penalties," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 255-282, April.
    3. Ghosal, Vivek, 2006. "Discovering Cartels: Dynamic Interrelationships between Civil and Criminal Antitrust Investigations," MPRA Paper 5499, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Katsoulacos, Yannis & Ulph, David, 2014. "Legal Uncertainty, Competition Law Enforcement Procedures and Optimal Penalties," 2007 Annual Meeting, July 29-August 1, 2007, Portland, Oregon TN 2015-12, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    5. Bigoni, Maria & Fridolfsson, Sven-Olof & Le Coq, Chloe & Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2008. "Fines, Leniency, Rewards and Organized Crime: Evidence from Antitrust Experiments," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 698, Stockholm School of Economics.

    More about this item


    amnesty; antitrust; cartels; collusion; corporate crime; debt; deterrence; extended liability; fines; immunity; imprisonment; judgement proofness; law enforcement; leniency; optimal fines; optimal liability; optimal sanctions; organized crime; political economy; rewards; sunk cost bias; whistleblowers;

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices

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