Blawgletter just came across a working paper about a favorite subject — Statistics on Modern Private International Cartels, 1990-2005.  The authors, John M. Connor and C. Gustav Helmers, wrote the paper for Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics.  Go here to read the paper for your own self.

Professor Connor and Ph.D. candidate Helmers studied 283 "hard-core cartels."  Among their key findings:

  • The cartels affected sales of $2.1 trillion in real 2005 terms.
  • Total overcharges worldwide exceeded $200 billion.
  • Overcharge rates ran at a median of 24 percent in North America and the European Union.
  • In the U.S. and Canada, private lawsuits recouped 43 percent of all recoveries from international cartels — more than double the 17 percent that government enforcement actions obtained.

The authors also conclude — in line with Blawgletter’s suspicions — that median U.S. fines against cartels dropped from a high of $2 billion per year at the end of the Clinton administration to $1 billion since.  And that cartels remain quite profitable.  Hmm.

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