IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Optimal Collusion with Limited Liability and Policy Implications


  • Flochel, Laurent
  • Versaevel, Bruno
  • de Villemeur, Étienne


Collusion sustainability depends on firms’ aptitude to impose sufficiently severe punishments in case of deviation from the collusive rule. We characterize the ability of oligopolistic firms to implement a collusive strategy when their ability to punish deviations over one or several periods is limited by a severity constraint. It captures all situations in which either structural conditions (the form of payoff functions), institutional circumstances (a regulation), or financial considerations (profitability requirements) set a lower bound to firms’ losses. The model specifications encompass the structural assumptions (A1-A3) in Abreu (1986) [Journal of Economic Theory, 39, 191-225]. The optimal punishment scheme is characterized, and the expression of the lowest discount factor for which collusion can be sustained is computed, that both depend on the status of the severity constraint. This extends received results from the literature to a large class of models that include a severity constraint, and uncovers the role of structural parameters that facilitate collusion by relaxing the constraint.

Suggested Citation

  • Flochel, Laurent & Versaevel, Bruno & de Villemeur, Étienne, 2009. "Optimal Collusion with Limited Liability and Policy Implications," IDEI Working Papers 547, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised Jul 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:11169

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Val Eugene Lambson, 1987. "Optimal Penal Codes in Price-setting Supergames with Capacity Constraints," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(3), pages 385-397.
    2. Beviá, Carmen & Corchón, Luis C. & Yasuda, Yosuke, 2011. "Oligopolistic equilibrium and financial constraints," UC3M Working papers. Economics we1110, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
    3. Malcolm Baker & Jeremy C. Stein & Jeffrey Wurgler, 2003. "When Does the Market Matter? Stock Prices and the Investment of Equity-Dependent Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 969-1005.
    4. Susan Athey & Kyle Bagwell & Chris Sanchirico, 2004. "Collusion and Price Rigidity," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 317-349.
    5. Lambson Val Eugene, 1994. "Some Results on Optimal Penal Codes in Asymmetric Bertrand Supergames," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 444-468, April.
    6. Motta,Massimo, 2004. "Competition Policy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521016919, March.
    7. Robert Gagné & Simon van Norden & Bruno Versaevel, 2003. "Testing Optimal Punishment Mechanisms Under Price Regulation: the Case of the Retail Market for Gasoline," CIRANO Working Papers 2003s-57, CIRANO.
    8. James W. Friedman, 1971. "A Non-cooperative Equilibrium for Supergames," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(1), pages 1-12.
    9. Jeanine Miklós-Thal, 2011. "Optimal collusion under cost asymmetry," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 46(1), pages 99-125, January.
    10. Chang, Myong-Hun, 1991. "The effects of product differentiation on collusive pricing," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 453-469, September.
    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. 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.
    13. Rothschild, R., 1999. "Cartel stability when costs are heterogeneous," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 717-734, July.
    14. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, January.
    15. Eckert, Andrew & West, Douglas S, 2004. "Retail Gasoline Price Cycles across Spatially Dispersed Gasoline Stations," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 245-273, April.
    16. Compte, Olivier & Jenny, Frederic & Rey, Patrick, 2002. "Capacity constraints, mergers and collusion," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-29, January.
    17. George Symeonidis, 2003. "In Which Industries is Collusion More Likely? Evidence from the UK," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 45-74, March.
    18. Andrew Eckert, 2002. "Retail price cycles and response asymmetry," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(1), pages 52-77, February.
    19. Helder Vasconcelos, 2005. "Tacit Collusion, Cost Asymmetries, and Mergers," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(1), pages 39-62, Spring.
    20. Osterdal, Lars Peter, 2003. "A note on the stability of collusion in differentiated oligopolies," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 53-64, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:11169. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.