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Private Versus Public Antitrust Enforcement: A Strategic Analysis

  • R. Preston McAfee
  • Hugo Mialon
  • Sue Mialon

We compare private and public enforcement of the antitrust laws in a simple strategic model of antitrust crime and lawsuit. The model highlights the tradeoff that private firms are ex ante more likely than the government to be informed about actual antitrust violations, but are also more likely to use the antitrust laws strategically, to the disadvantage of consumers. With coupled damages (according to which the plaintiff receives what the defendant pays), if the court is sufficiently accurate, adding private to public enforcement always increases social welfare, while if the court is less accurate, it increases welfare only if the government is sufficiently inefficient in litigation. Moreover, pure private enforcement is never strictly optimal. However, in general, achieving the welfare-maximizing outcome requires private enforcement with damages that are both multiplied and decoupled.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta) in its series Emory Economics with number 0523.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0523
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  1. Baumol, William J & Ordover, Janusz A, 1985. "Use of Antitrust to Subvert Competition," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 247-65, May.
  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 429-45, June.
  3. Hugh C. Briggs III & Kathleen D. Huryn & Mark E. McBride, 1996. "Treble Damages and the Incentive to Sue and Settle," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(4), pages 770-786, Winter.
  4. Breit, William & Elzinga, Kenneth G, 1974. "Antitrust Enforcement and Economic Efficiency: The Uneasy Case for Treble Damages," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 329-56, October.
  5. Besanko, David & Spulber, Daniel F, 1990. "Are Treble Damages Neutral? Sequential Equilibrium and Private Antitrust Enforcement," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 870-87, September.
  6. Breit, William & Elzinga, Kenneth G, 1985. "Private Antitrust Enforcement: The New Learning," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 405-43, May.
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