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Detrebling versus Decoupling Antitrust Damages: Lessons from the Theory of Enforcement


  • A. Mitchell Polinsky


This continent compares two alternative systems of private antitrust enforcement. In one (referred to as the "damage multiplier approach"), the plaintiff receives what the defendant pays; in the other (the"decoupling approach"), this constraint is not imposed. Reducing treble damages to single damages("detrebling") would be an example of the first approach. Making the defendant pay treble damages while only giving the plaintiff single damages would be an example of the second approach. It is shown, using the principles of the the economic theory of enforcement, that the decoupling approach is preferable to the damage multiplier approach, and that the optimal system of decoupling could award the plaintiff more or less than what the defendant pays. Several additional issues are raised that need to be considered before decoupling can be recommended in practice.

Suggested Citation

  • A. Mitchell Polinsky, 1986. "Detrebling versus Decoupling Antitrust Damages: Lessons from the Theory of Enforcement," NBER Working Papers 1846, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1846

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. A. Mitchell Polinsky, 1979. "Private versus Public Enforcement of Fines," NBER Working Papers 0338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
    4. William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1974. "The Private Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 0062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Easterbrook, Frank H, 1985. "Detrebling Antitrust Damages," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 445-467, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lawrence White, 2001. "Lysine and Price Fixing: How Long? How Severe?," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 18(1), pages 23-31, February.
    2. Nuno Garoupa & Chris William Sanchirico, 2010. "Decoupling as Transactions Tax," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 469-496.

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