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Academic Articles Awards > Economics

The discontent cartel member and cartel collapse: The case of the German cement cartel

Joseph E. Harrington Jr., Kai Hüschelrathb, Ulrich Laitenbergerb, and Florian Smuda, International Journal of Industrial Organization, Volume 42, pp. 106-119, September 2015

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Readers’ vote will close on February 15, 2016. Readers’ vote will allow you to nominate 1 article for each of the Awards, i.e., 10 Academic articles, 10 Business articles, and the best Soft Laws. The readers’ short-list of Academic and Business Articles will be communicated to the Board together with the 20 articles nominated by the Steering Committees. The Board will decide on the award-winning articles. Results will be announced at the Awards ceremony to take place in Washington DC on the eve of the ABA Antitrust Spring Meeting on April 5, 2016.

We hypothesize a particular source of cartel instability and explore its relevance to understanding cartel dynamics. The cartel instability is rooted in the observation that, upon cartel formation, the relative positions of firms are often fixed which may lead some growth-conscious members to be discontent. This incongruity between a cartel member’s allocated market share and its desired market share may result in systematic deviations and the eventual collapse of the cartel. This hypothesis is then taken to the German cement cartel of 1991–2002. We argue that Readymix was such a discontent cartel member and, using a rich pricing data set, are able to characterize how Readymix deviated, how other firms responded, and how it led to the collapse of the cartel.

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