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Selling Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Aug 2022

Selling Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

Antitrust enforcers and its other defenders have never done a good job of selling their field to the public. That is not entirely their fault. Antitrust is inherently technical, and a less engaging discipline to most people than, say, civil rights or criminal law. The more serious problem is that when the general press does talk about antitrust policy it naturally gravitates toward the fringes, both the far right and the far left. Extreme rhetoric makes for better press than the day-to-day operations of a technical enterprise. The extremes are often stated in overdramatized black-and-white terms that avoid the real …


President Biden's Executive Order On Promoting Competition: An Antitrust Analysis, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jul 2022

President Biden's Executive Order On Promoting Competition: An Antitrust Analysis, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

In July, 2021, President Biden signed a far ranging Executive Order directed to promoting competition in the American economy. This paper analyzes issues covered by the Order that are most likely to affect the scope and enforcement of antitrust law. The only passage that the Executive Order quoted from a Supreme Court antitrust decision captures its antitrust ideology well – that the Sherman Act:

rests on the premise that the unrestrained interaction of competitive forces will yield the best allocation of our economic resources, the lowest prices, the highest quality and the greatest material progress, while at the same time …


Antitrust Liability For False Advertising: A Response To Carrier & Tushnet, Susannah Gagnon, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jun 2022

Antitrust Liability For False Advertising: A Response To Carrier & Tushnet, Susannah Gagnon, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

This reply briefly considers when false advertising can give rise to antitrust liability. The biggest difference between tort and antitrust liability is that the latter requires harm to the market, which is critically dependent on actual consumer response. As a result, the biggest hurdle a private plaintiff faces in turning an act of false advertising into an antitrust offense is proof of causation – to what extent can a decline in purchase volume or other market rejection be specifically attributed to the defendant’s false claims? That requirement dooms the great majority of false advertising claims attacked as violations of the …


The Slogans And Goals Of Antitrust Law, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jun 2022

The Slogans And Goals Of Antitrust Law, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

This is a comparative examination of the slogans and goals most advocated for antitrust law today – namely, that antitrust should be concerned with “bigness,” that it should intervene when actions undermine the “competitive process,” or that it should be concerned about promoting some conception of welfare. “Bigness” as an antitrust concern targets firms based on absolute size rather than share of a market, as antitrust traditionally has done. The bigness approach entails that antitrust cannot be concerned about low prices, or the welfare of consumers and labor. Nondominant firms could not sustain very high prices or cause significant reductions …


Digital Cluster Markets, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Apr 2022

Digital Cluster Markets, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

This paper considers the role of “cluster” markets in antitrust litigation, the minimum requirements for recognizing such markets, and the relevance of network effects in identifying them.

One foundational requirement of markets in antitrust cases is that they consist of products that are very close substitutes for one another. Even though markets are nearly always porous, this principle is very robust in antitrust analysis and there are few deviations.

Nevertheless, clustering noncompeting products into a single market for purposes of antitrust analysis can be valuable, provided that its limitations are understood. Clustering contributes to market power when (1) many customers …


Worker Welfare And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

Worker Welfare And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

The important field of antitrust and labor has gone through a profound change in orientation. For the great bulk of its history labor has been viewed as a competitive threat, and the debate over antitrust and labor was framed around whether there should be a labor “immunity” from the antitrust laws. In just the last decade, however, the orientation has flipped. Most new writing views labor as a target of anticompetitive restraints imposed by employers. Antitrust is increasingly concerned with protecting labor rather than challenging its conduct.

Antitrust interest in labor markets is properly focused on two things. The smaller …


The Progressives' Antitrust Toolbox, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

The Progressives' Antitrust Toolbox, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

The period 1900 to 1930 was the Golden Age of antitrust theory, if not of enforcement. During that period courts and scholars developed nearly all of the tools that we use to this day to assess anticompetitive practices under the federal antitrust laws. In subsequent years antitrust policy veered to both the left and the right, but today seems to be returning to a position quite similar to the one that these Progressive adopted. Their principal contributions were (1) partial equilibrium analysis, which became the basis for concerns about economic concentration, the distinction between short- and long-run analysis, and later …


Monopolizing And The Sherman Act, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

Monopolizing And The Sherman Act, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

In one sentence § 2 of the Sherman Act condemns firms who “monopolize,” “attempt to monopolize” or “combine or conspire” to monopolize -- all without explanation. Section 2 is the antitrust law’s only provision that reaches entirely unilateral conduct, although it has often been used to reach collaborative conduct as well. In general, §2 requires greater amounts of individually held market power than do the other antitrust statutes, but it is less categorical about conduct. With one exception, however, the statute reads so broadly that criticisms of the nature that it is outdated cannot be based on faithful readings of …


Antitrust Error Costs, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

Antitrust Error Costs, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

The idea that consideration of error costs should inform judgments about actions with uncertain consequences is well established. When we act on imperfect information, we consider not only the probability of an event, but also the expected costs of making an error. In 1984 Frank Easterbrook used this idea to rationalize an anti-enforcement bias in antitrust, reasoning that markets are likely to correct monopoly in a relatively short time while judicial errors are likely to persist. As a result, false positives (recognizing a problem when there is none) are more costly than false negatives. While the problem of error cost …


A Miser’S Rule Of Reason: Student Athlete Compensation And The Alston Antitrust Case, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2022

A Miser’S Rule Of Reason: Student Athlete Compensation And The Alston Antitrust Case, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

The unanimous Supreme Court decision in NCAA v. Alston is its most important probe of antitrust’s rule of reason in decades. The decision implicates several issues, including the role of antitrust in labor markets, how antitrust applies to institutions that have an educational mission as well as involvement in a large commercial enterprise, and how much leeway district courts should have in creating decrees that contemplate ongoing administration.

The Court accepted what has come to be the accepted framework: the plaintiff must make out a prima facie case of competitive harm. Then the burden shifts to the defendant to produce …


Regulating New Tech: Problems, Pathways, And People, Cary Coglianese Dec 2021

Regulating New Tech: Problems, Pathways, And People, Cary Coglianese

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

New technologies bring with them many promises, but also a series of new problems. Even though these problems are new, they are not unlike the types of problems that regulators have long addressed in other contexts. The lessons from regulation in the past can thus guide regulatory efforts today. Regulators must focus on understanding the problems they seek to address and the causal pathways that lead to these problems. Then they must undertake efforts to shape the behavior of those in industry so that private sector managers focus on their technologies’ problems and take actions to interrupt the causal pathways. …


Antitrust And Platform Monopoly, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Nov 2021

Antitrust And Platform Monopoly, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

Are large digital platforms that deal directly with consumers “winner take all,” or natural monopoly, firms? That question is surprisingly complex and does not produce the same answer for every platform. The closer one looks at digital platforms the less they seem to be winner-take-all. As a result, competition can be made to work in most of them. Further, antitrust enforcement, with its accommodation of firm variety, is generally superior to any form of statutory regulation that generalizes over large numbers.

Assuming that an antitrust violation is found, what should be the remedy? Breaking up large firms subject to extensive …


Addressing The Divisions In Antitrust Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Nov 2021

Addressing The Divisions In Antitrust Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

This is the text of an interview conducted in writing by Professor A. Douglas Melamed, Stanford Law School.


Herbert Hovenkamp As Antitrust Oracle: Appreciating The Overlooked Contributions Of The New Harvard School, Christopher S. Yoo Jul 2021

Herbert Hovenkamp As Antitrust Oracle: Appreciating The Overlooked Contributions Of The New Harvard School, Christopher S. Yoo

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

My colleague, Herbert Hovenkamp, is almost universally recognized as the most cited and the most authoritative US antitrust scholar. Among his many honors, his status as the senior author of the authoritative Areeda and Hovenkamp treatise makes him the unquestioned leader of the New Harvard School, which has long served as the bellwether for how courts are likely to resolve emerging issues in modern antitrust doctrine. Unfortunately, its defining tenets and its positions on emerging issues remain surprisingly obscure. My contribution to this festschrift explores the core commitments that distinguish the New Harvard School from other approaches to antitrust. It …


Antitrust Harm And Causation, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jul 2021

Antitrust Harm And Causation, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

How should plaintiffs show harm from antitrust violations? The inquiry naturally breaks into two issues: first, what is the nature of the harm? and second, what does proof of causation require? The best criterion for assessing harm is likely or reasonably anticipated output effects. Antitrust’s goal should be output as high as is consistent with sustainable competition.

The standard for proof of causation then depends on two things: the identity of the enforcer and the remedy that the plaintiff is seeking. It does not necessarily depend on which antitrust statute the plaintiff is seeking to enforce. For public agencies, enforcement …


Due Process In Antitrust Enforcement: Normative And Comparative Perspectives, Christopher S. Yoo, Yong Huang, Thomas Fetzer, Shan Jiang Jan 2021

Due Process In Antitrust Enforcement: Normative And Comparative Perspectives, Christopher S. Yoo, Yong Huang, Thomas Fetzer, Shan Jiang

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

Due process in antitrust enforcement has significant implications for better professional and accurate enforcement decisions. Not only can due process spur economic growth, raise government credibility, and limit the abuse of powers according to law, it also promotes competitive reforms in monopolized sectors and curbs corruption. Jurisdictions learn from the best practices in the investigation process, decisionmaking process, and the announcement and judicial review of antitrust enforcement decisions. By comparing the enforcement policies of China, the European Union, and the United States, this article calls for better disclosure of evidence, participation of legal counsel, and protection of the procedural and …


The Looming Crisis In Antitrust Economics, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2021

The Looming Crisis In Antitrust Economics, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

As in so many areas of law and politics in the United States, antitrust’s center is at bay. It is besieged by a right wing that wants to limit antitrust even more than it has been limited over the last quarter century. On the left, it faces revisionists who propose significantly greater enforcement.

One thing the two extremes share, however, is denigration of the role of economics in antitrust analysis. On the right, the Supreme Court’s two most recent antitrust decisions at this writing reveal that economic analysis no longer occupies the central role that it once had. On the …


Competitive Harm From Vertical Mergers, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Oct 2020

Competitive Harm From Vertical Mergers, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

The antitrust enforcement Agencies' 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines introduce a nontechnical application of bargaining theory into the assessment of competitive effects from vertical acquisitions. The economics of such bargaining is complex and can produce skepticism among judges, who might regard its mathematics as overly technical, its game theory as excessively theoretical or speculative, or its assumptions as unrealistic.

However, we have been there before. The introduction of concentration indexes, particularly the HHI, in the Merger Guidelines was initially met with skepticism but gradually they were accepted as judges became more comfortable with them. The same thing very largely happened again …


House Judiciary Inquiry Into Competition In Digital Markets: Statement, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Apr 2020

House Judiciary Inquiry Into Competition In Digital Markets: Statement, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

This is a response to a query from the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, requesting my views about the adequacy of existing antitrust policy in digital markets.

The statutory text of the United States antitrust laws is very broad, condemning all anticompetitive restraints on trade, monopolization, and mergers and interbrand contractual exclusion whose effect “may be substantially to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly.” Federal judicial interpretation is much narrower, however, for several reasons. One is the residue of a reaction against excessive antitrust enforcement in the 1970s and earlier. However, since that time antitrust …


On The Meaning Of Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2020

On The Meaning Of Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

This brief essay addresses the ambiguities in the meaning of “consumer welfare” in antitrust, exploring the differences between the Williamson, Bork, and current understanding of that term. After weighing the alternatives it argues that the consumer welfare principle in antitrust should seek out that state of affairs in which output is maximized, consistent with sustainable competition


Justice Department's New Position On Patents, Standard Setting, And Injunctions, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2020

Justice Department's New Position On Patents, Standard Setting, And Injunctions, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

A deep split in American innovation policy has arisen between new economy and old economy innovation. In a recent policy statement, the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department takes a position that tilts more toward the old economy. Its December, 2019, policy statement on remedies for Standard Essential Patents issued jointly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Institute of Standards and Technology reflects this movement.

The policy statement as a whole contains two noteworthy problems: one is a glaring omission, and the other is a mischaracterization of the scope of antitrust liability. Both positions are strongly …


Frand And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2020

Frand And Antitrust, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

This paper considers when a patentee’s violation of a FRAND commitment also violates the antitrust laws. It warns against two extremes. First, is thinking that any violation of a FRAND obligation is an antitrust violation as well. FRAND obligations are contractual, and most breaches of contract do not violate antitrust law. The other extreme is thinking that, because a FRAND violation is a breach of contract, it cannot also be an antitrust violation.

Every antitrust case must consider the market environment in which conduct is to be evaluated. SSOs operated by multiple firms are joint ventures. Antitrust’s role is to …


What’S In Your Wallet (And What Should The Law Do About It?), Natasha Sarin Jan 2020

What’S In Your Wallet (And What Should The Law Do About It?), Natasha Sarin

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

In traditional markets, firms can charge prices that are significantly elevated relative to their costs only if there is a market failure. However, this is not true in a two-sided market (like Amazon, Uber, and Mastercard), where firms often subsidize one side of the market and generate revenue from the other. This means consideration of one side of the market in isolation is problematic. The Court embraced this view in Ohio v. American Express, requiring that anticompetitive harm on one side of a two-sided market be weighed against benefits on the other side.

Legal scholars denounce this decision, which, …


Competition Policy For Labour Markets, Herbert J. Hovenkamp May 2019

Competition Policy For Labour Markets, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

Competition law in many jurisdictions defines its consumer welfare goal in terms of low consumer prices. For example, mergers are challenged when they threaten to cause a price increase from reduced competition in the post-merger market. While the consumer welfare principle is under attack in some circles, it remains the most widely expressed goal of antitrust policy.

We would do better, however, to define consumer welfare in terms of output rather than price. Competition policy should strive to facilitate the highest output in any market that is consistent with sustainable competition. That goal is in most ways the same as …


The Warren Campaign’S Antitrust Proposals, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Mar 2019

The Warren Campaign’S Antitrust Proposals, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

Antitrust policy promises to be an important issue in the 2020 presidential election, and for good reason. Market power measured by price-cost margins has been on the rise since the 1980s. Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren has two proposals directed at large tech platforms. One would designate large platform markets such as Amazon “platform utilities,” and prohibit them from selling their own merchandise on the platform in competition with other retailers. The other proposes more aggressive enforcement against large platform acquisitions of smaller companies.

This paper concludes that the first proposal is anticompetitive, leading to reduced output and higher prices …


Anticompetitive Mergers In Labor Markets, Ioana Marinescu, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2019

Anticompetitive Mergers In Labor Markets, Ioana Marinescu, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

Mergers of competitors are conventionally challenged under the federal antitrust laws when they threaten to lessen competition in some product or service market in which the merging firms sell. Mergers can also injure competition in markets where the firms purchase. Although that principle is widely recognized, very few litigated cases have applied merger law to buyers. This article concerns an even more rarefied subset, and one that has barely been mentioned. Nevertheless, its implications are staggering. Some mergers may be unlawful because they injure competition in the labor market by enabling the post-merger firm anticompetitively to suppress wages or salaries. …


Intellectual Property And Competition, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2019

Intellectual Property And Competition, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

A legal system that relies on private property rights to promote economic development must consider that profits can come from two different sources. First, both competition under constant technology and innovation promote economic growth by granting many of the returns to the successful developer. Competition and innovation both increase output, whether measured by quantity or quality. Second, however, profits can come from practices that reduce output, in some cases by reducing quantity, or in others by reducing innovation.

IP rights and competition policy were traditionally regarded as in conflict. IP rights create monopoly, which was thought to be inimical to …


Is Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle Imperiled?, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2019

Is Antitrust's Consumer Welfare Principle Imperiled?, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

Antitrust’s consumer welfare principle stands for the proposition that antitrust policy should encourage markets to produce output as high as is consistent with sustainable competition, and prices that are accordingly as low. Such a policy does not protect every interest group. For example, it opposes the interests of cartels or other competition-limiting associations who profit from lower output and higher prices. It also runs counter to the interest of less competitive firms that need higher prices in order to survive. Market structure is relevant to antitrust policy, but its importance is contingent rather than absolute – that is, market structure …


Product Differentiation, Christopher S. Yoo Jan 2019

Product Differentiation, Christopher S. Yoo

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

The literature applying the economics of product differentiation to intellectual property has been called the most important development in the economic analysis of IP in years. Relaxing the assumption that products are homogeneous yields new insights by explaining persistent features of IP markets that the traditional approaches cannot, challenging the extent to which IP allows rightsholders to earn monopoly profits, allowing for sources of welfare outside of price-quantity space, which in turn opens up new dimensions along which intellectual property can compete. It also allows for equilibria with different welfare characteristics, making the tendency towards systematic underproduction more contingent and …


Prophylactic Merger Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Dec 2018

Prophylactic Merger Policy, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law

An important purpose of the antitrust merger law is to arrest certain anticompetitive practices or outcomes in their “incipiency.” Many Clayton Act decisions involving both mergers and other practices had recognized the idea as early as the 1920s. In Brown Shoe the Supreme Court doubled down on the idea, attributing to Congress a concern about a “rising tide of economic concentration” that must be halted “at its outset and before it gathered momentum.” The Supreme Court did not explain why an incipiency test was needed to address this particular problem. Once structural thresholds for identifying problematic mergers are identified there …