Andreea Cosnita-Langlais
Université Paris Ouest, EconomiX, France



(Tuesday, 1st June 2010)

Title : The institutional design of merger control: incentives and deterrence

Despite the seemingly increased interventionism on behalf of competition agencies throughout the world, “the antitrust policy is primarily a 'deterrence' system not a regulatory system", at least according to Paul Joskow (2002). In other words, although competition policy cannot punish all illegal behaviours or prevent all anti-competitive mergers, it will nevertheless achieve its purpose of protecting competition and ultimately consumers through its deterrent effect. The latter is essential for any legal framework, and relies on the development of antitrust rules which businesses are expected to internalize into their decisions.

Our discussion will focus on the deterrent and thereby incentive effects provided by one particular branch of competition policy, the merger control, which is not to punish ex post an illegal behavior, but has to prevent ex ante the formation of mergers detrimental to consumers. The design of merger policy thus becomes crucial for the incentives provided to firms contemplating mergers, as the potential deterrent effect of merger control cannot rely on the severity or frequency of some punishments to be applied after the merger is completed.

This workshop will address three topics in particular, which stress the importance of the merger policy institutional design for its final outcome and performance.  First of all, we shall explore the question of whether deterrence achieved by means of prohibiting mergers is the one to hope for. Then we go on to examine the incentives provided by the merger remedies, given that recent analyses show that they do not really deter merger formation. Finally, we will discuss whether a stricter merger is always the best option.

Bibliographical references :

SELDESLACHTS, J., J. CLOUGHERTY and P. BARROS “Settle for Now but Block for Tomorrow: The Deterrence Effects of Merger Policy Tools” - Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 52 (3), August 2009, pp. 607-634.

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SØRGARD, L “Optimal Merger Policy: Enforcement vs. Deterrence” - Journal of Industrial Economics, Sep2009, Vol. 57 Issue 3, p438-456.

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COSNITA, A. and J-P. TROPEANO “Do Remedies Affect the Efficiency Defence? An Optimal Merger Control Analysis” - 2010 (a)

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COSNITA, A. and J-P. TROPEANO “Fight Cartels or Control Mergers? On the Optimal Allocation of Enforcement Efforts within Competition Policy” - 2010 (b)

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