ANTIMONOPOLY ACADEMIC GRANTS
We’re investing in a new paradigm for antimonopoly change.
Academic scholarship plays a critical role in informing paradigm and policy shifts, especially in the antimonopoly field. Research seeds novel theories of harm that can then be applies in litigation against anticompetitive abuses; identifies high-level trends and gaps to inform enforcement priorities and strategies; and introduces new ways of thinking about the problems we’re trying to solve for–so that we may be more creative systematic, and principled when tackling solutions to rein in concentrated private power and build a more equitable economy.
That’s why we’re investing $750,000 in 26 proposals to respond to the unique antimonopoly moment we’re in. This outstanding cohort consists of 41 researchers from 33 different institutions. They reflect the diversity of disciplines and lines of inquiry needed to broaden the antimonopoly field to more fully dissect the taxonomy of harms perpetuated by concentrated private power, so that we may better understand and think more creatively and rigorously about what’s needed to solve this problem.
Read more about how we’re thinking about these investments here.
A History of American AntiMonopoly Thought
Richard R. John, Columbia University
The 2008 global financial crisis has revived a blistering indictment of economic consolidation that is as old as the republic. This indictment has revived an interest in anti-monopoly, a perennial, if often submerged, mode of inquiry that has for over two centuries provided American journalists, statesmen, and social theorists with a vision of how economic institutions ought to be structured. To introduce this mode of inquiry to the current generation, I am writing a book-length history of one of America’s most enduring, consequential, and misunderstood civic ideals. For too long, anti-monopoly thought in the United States has been narrowly conflated with the economic aspirations of propertied white men, an elision that marginalizes the perspectives of women, unpropertied workers, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans.
To help rectify this omission, my project will consider how anti-monopoly informed the lived experience of a wide variety of Americans. Outsiders not only contributed to anti-monopoly thought: in key moments, they transformed its character. For too long the public debate over anti-monopoly has been conflated with partisan electioneering aimed at a white male electorate. My project seeks to rectify this omission by publishing an essay on the anti-monopoly thought of selected women, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans.
Antitrust Implications of Online Pricing Algorithms: Evidence from High-Frequency Price Data
Zach Y. Brown, University of Michigan AND Alexander MacKay, Harvard University
In order to ensure that online markets are fair and competitive, it is important to understand the role of pricing algorithms. In this project, we plan to collect novel high-frequency price data from major online retailers and document the types of algorithms that are being used and how these algorithms have changed over time. This will allow us to test predictions from theory and inform policy regarding pricing algorithms.
The project will build on our earlier work showing how competition in algorithms among firms can reduce price competition and allow a sophisticated firm with high-speed pricing algorithms to gain market share even in the absence of collusion.
Our aim is to better understand how pricing algorithms can directly impact market structure, leading to increased concentration, greater price dispersion, and increased prices. Our results will shed light on whether regulation around pricing algorithms can promote competition in online markets.
Assessing Race, Gender, and Income Disparities in Pharmaceutical Drug Access, Availability, and Pricing
Robin Feldman, UC Hastings College of Law
The pharmaceutical industry’s market power and its effect on access to lifesaving medications merit deeper examination. Our study will contribute to the broader field of knowledge regarding the impact of monopolies on society and the lives of individuals, particularly across race and gender. We hypothesize widespread and persistent disparities in access, availability, and out-of-pocket pricing for prescription medicines across race, gender, and income status. Our project will be one of the first studies to illuminate this market area.
We will begin with a data set we have already created, which contains Medicare Part D drug claims for a cohort of roughly 1 million patients across ten years. The enormously complex task of painstakingly cleaning and preparing the Medicare data has been completed. For this project, we will sort and analyze the data according to race and gender and will map it onto population data for income levels in various communities. The analysis will focus on out-of-pocket costs for patients based on race, gender, and income status for five life-saving drugs drawn from critical areas of care, including treatment for mental health disorders, high cholesterol, and arthritis.
‘Bigness’ in the Electric Vehicle Industry: A Curse and a Blessing?
Lenore Palladino, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Market dominance by large corporations is one of the major drivers of today’s social ills. Yet in the 20th century, product market innovation and collective worker power often required some degree of corporate ‘bigness.’ Enabling innovation—i.e., producing higher-quality products with fewer resources over time—should, in theory, be possible alongside mitigating the harms of market power. Yet much more work needs to be done to establish the best policy framework to address both the curse and the blessings of ‘bigness.’
The proposed research program will examine how to strike the balance between market power and the necessary social conditions for economic innovation and worker power through a case study of a critical industry: electric vehicles.
Business Power and State Aid: Investment Subsidies in Comparative Perspective
Chase Foster, Munich School of Politics and Public Policy AND Melike Arslan, Harvard University
How does business power—both in politics and in the market—shape the distribution of corporate subsidies and tax incentives? Economists have evaluated the effectiveness of business incentives programs, concluding that they generally do not increase employment or boost economic growth. Political scientists have shown that subsidies can be strategically deployed to further politicians’ re-election chances. However, little is known about the relationship between investment incentives and the growing levels of market concentration in the US and many other economies.
With support from the Economic Security Project, we will conduct a two-year research project that empirically examines the relationship between business power and state aid to industry. Methodologically, we will combine quantitative analyses of investment subsidies with qualitative case studies of select subsidy arrangements, with a particular focus on Big Tech companies. We will also examine whether and how competition (antitrust) law affects this relationship by comparing the politics of investment incentives in the United States to those in the European Union, where the state aid rules limit how public funds are transferred to corporate actors. Our hope is that the research will be informative for contemporary policy discussions about economic development, market competition and the regulation of corporate power.
Changing News Industry Dynamics: Regulation, Financing and Media Independence
Marita Freimane, KU Leuven
Truthful and independent news coverage is key to an open society. At a time when news media companies are becoming increasingly reliant on large online platforms for revenues and content dissemination, my research improves our understanding of how regulation of these platforms impacts the media industry and their content provision.
Community Power, Tech Power, and Racial Surveillance Capitalism
Seeta Peña Gangadharan, London School of Economics and Political Science
How do tech companies affect the strength and power of marginalized communities? Conversely, how do marginalized communities affect the strength and power of these companies? This research approaches these questions with the racialized expansion of surveillance tech markets in mind. Although racial impacts do not feature in conventional studies of tech monopoly, this study attempts to center the experience of members of marginalized communities by using novel, participatory methods to understand the impacts of dominant players in the surveillance tech market.
The study begins from the premise that individuals and groups facing systemic hardship often comprise the populations upon which controversial surveillance technologies are tested. focusing on notions of safety and belonging, our study of community power and tech power will draw out the thread between lived experience of hyper-surveillance and the wealth and political power of tech companies.
Concentrating Economic Power through Epistemological Power: Analyzing Innovation Policy Institutions in the United States
Shobita Parthasarathy, University of Michigan
There is growing realization that our innovation ecosystem may not benefit the public interest. It concentrates wealth. And it often reinforces structural inequalities: marginalized people struggle to access crucial technologies, while the technologies that are most readily available to struggling communities may disproportionately surveil and punish them.
Public sector institutions play a crucial role in shaping these unequal impacts, not only by determining what innovation receives intellectual property protection, but also by deciding who and what kinds of research receive funding. In other words, they have “epistemological power”: the power to shape the directions of scientific inquiry and ultimately technological development.
This project focuses on how two types of innovation policy institutions—research funding bodies and the patent office—embody and exert epistemological power and how this contributes to concentrated economic power and structural inequality. It examines the following research questions: 1) Do innovation policy institutions concentrate epistemological power? How? Do assumptions about the commercial viability of research findings shape government investment? 2) How does the concentration of epistemological power influence economic power, and reinforce or even exacerbate structural inequality? 3) How might we redesign these institutions to ensure economic democracy and equity in the technology sector?
Developing Better Remedies for Platform Harms
Paul Ohm, Georgetown University Law Center
Consent decrees settling enforcement actions between technology platforms and State AGs or the FTC are often the best means to protect competition, consumers, and civil rights. Dozens of these binding obligations have been entered into over the past decade and serve as forms of “private legislation” that fill the regulatory void around the tech industry.
Despite the importance of these consent decrees, they too often appear to draw heavily on a menu of well-worn but insufficient options: promises not to violate the law, check-the-box compliance audits, or “comprehensive” privacy or security programs. Sorely needed are fresh ideas from creative thinkers for new ways to bring about meaningful reform, oversight, and transparency. These remedies will help bring about meaningful reform to, oversight of, and transparency from major technology companies where legislative efforts have so far failed.
This project will convene academics and policy experts in a series of workshops to propose and develop novel and more effective consent decree proposals, focusing in particular on harms associated with today’s powerful and market-dominant platforms. We will collect, refine, and curate these proposals from our network of academic and civil society partners, and make the proposals available to regulators.
Environmental Racism and Monopoly Power in Algorithmically Mediated Work
Sonja Solomun, Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy, McGill University
Monopolies hurt local communities of colour. Concentrated private power – and racial capitalism more broadly – is central to the climate crisis. We cannot talk about fair markets or economic justice without environmental justice.
Labor Market Concentration, Unionization, and the Firm-size Wage Premium
Kevin Devereux, Peking University
Blair Long, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Labor markets in which a small number of firms dominate employment are concentrated. Monopsony theory predicts that employers in concentrated markets push down wages and hire fewer workers. Long considered implausible, recent evidence that concentration suppresses wages in local labor markets (LLMs) has revived interest in monopsonistic competition for labor, with implications for antitrust regulation and unionization.
We propose resolve an apparent paradox: all else equal, larger firms mean greater concentration, pushing wages down; but large firms themselves pay a premium over their smaller competitors. First we ask: do large firms push down wages at the market level while maintaining a pay premium over their smaller competitors? Alternatively, do large firms compete with each other in high-wage markets in which none dominates the market?
Second, observing unionized workers receive higher pay, and that unionization reduces the ability of concentrated employers to suppress wages, we ask: to what extent is the firm-size wage premium explained by unionization? And how does this affect the ability of employers to suppress wages?
The results of this study will crucially inform the ongoing effort of federal regulators to review mergers for their labor market impacts.
Labor Monopsony and Geographic Inequality
Hiba Hafiz, Boston College Law School
Employer monopsony is ubiquitous in labor markets, suppressing wages, benefits, and the quality of work for American workers, and impacting workers of color, women, and low-wage workers most. But employer power is particularly pervasive and intractable in distressed and rural labor markets, an understudied subject within the anti-monopoly literature.
Distressed and rural labor markets—that is, labor markets in rural areas and deindustrialized cities, suburbs, and towns that have suffered declining growth or contraction—are characterized by high labor market concentration levels, scarce employment, and low levels of labor market regulation that entrench employer buyer power. These characteristics present unique legal and regulatory challenges to countering employer control over the terms and conditions of work because encouraging competition or new employer entry in such thin markets is particularly difficult using existing regulatory tools.
My project takes on the legal and regulatory challenges of reducing employer buyer power in distressed and rural labor markets. It will provide the first analysis of the limitations of current law and labor market regulation in these markets and propose a suite of legal and policy solutions to strengthen worker power and labor market competition in those markets.
Landlord Tech Watch
Erin McElroy, University of Texas at Austin
Landlord Tech Watch is a project dedicated to studying landlord technologies, or the platforms, systems, software, and infrastructure that landlords and property managers use to capture tenant data and grow property portfolios. From tenant screening algorithms to biometric facial recognition building access hardware, landlord tech effectively links data, surveillance, and real estate together in novel ways, augmenting contexts of dispossession, carcerality, gentrification, and eviction.
As a collaborative public-facing project, Landlord Tech Watch analyzes tenant harms associated with the industry from a housing justice and abolitionist perspective. By bringing together organizers and researchers from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, People Power Media, the OceanHill Brownsville Alliance, the University of Texas at Austin, and more, it aims to help strengthen organizing power across housing and technological justice worlds. Over the next year, the project, led by Erin McElroy, will produce new scholarly work, popular education materials, a virtual gathering, and a tenant organizing toolkit.
Masking Protectionism as Free Trade: The Role of Antitrust
Erik Peinert, Brown University
Antimonopoly politics and policy are now more global than domestic, and are facing a paradox. Conventional wisdom suggests that globalization and free trade would to lead to competition, limiting corporate power, and yet we see rising monopoly power domestically and internationally.
To make sense of this, and in contrast to the presumption that contemporary trade agreements promote free trade, I argue that these agreements are best conceptualized as an effort to insert legally protectionist terms into the domestic regulations of signatory countries. I focus on the role of antitrust policies in this process. Even with liberalizing language, antitrust rules can be written such that certain forms of corporate organization and business practices are deemed efficient and pro-competitive, subverting usual meanings and protecting certain actors over others. Through a combination of interviews with policymakers and archival research in the United States, the OECD, and other international organizations, I aim to show and understand the protectionist motivations behind the diffusion of antitrust policies as a condition of trade agreements.
Mergers AND Acquisitions and Big Tech’s Innovation Capabilities: Evidence from patents’ concentration
Ilan Strauss, Senior Research Associate, Ucl Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, London and Jangho Yang, Assistant Professor of Management Sciences, Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo
Current antitrust policy tends to overlook the centrality of intangible input capital (patents, human capital, platform, and data) in motivating many of Big Tech’s key acquisitions. This study details the extent of Big Tech’s dominance in key intangible input markets, with a focus on citation-weighted patents and the role of mergers and acquisitions in acquiring them and their subsequent development. We consider how regulators can best measure and consider technological input markets when reviewing Big Tech M&A activity. We show how proper consideration of technological input markets would result in more stringent merger review policy.
Miners’ Unions and the Coordination of the Coal Market
BRANDEN ADAMS, UC SANTA BARBARA
Historians can show that, when it comes to solving the problems of complex economic coordination, the free market is not the only alternative to a corporate monopoly. Labor unions (when not forestalled by courts) have often tried to solve some of the same problems.
Misinformation, Platform Power, and Social Policy
Madiha Zahrah Choksi, Cornell Tech
Ari Ezra Waldman, Northeastern University
Viral misinformation threatens the civil rights of marginalized populations. Black and Indigenous people are not only targets of misinformation campaigns, but their right to vote is also being curtailed because of the racist “Big Lie” of election fraud. Women are bombarded with lies about the dangers of abortion, all while those same lies form the basis of anti-abortion policy in conservative states. And transgender youth are being barred from living their authentic selves because of persistent lies about adolescent hormone therapy. Little is understood about the mechanics linking (mis)information cascades and social policy. Even less is understood about the ways in which misinformation is changing legal institutions and the ways in which private corporations–particularly, platforms that host misinformation–are leveraging law and technology to concentrate and amplify their power.
We suggest that scholars are insufficiently understanding the extent of the misinformation problem, particularly with respect to its effects on the most vulnerable among us and its contribution to concentrated economic power. This research will fill that gap by exploring the spread of misinformation that is then leveraged by legal institutions to subordinate marginalized populations and the connection between that misinformation and platform power.
Multinationals, Economic Power and Inclusion in Feed to Poultry Value Chains in Africa
Simon Roberts and Sumayya Goga, University of Johannesburg (CCRED)
The increasing concentration of ownership and control of agro-food businesses is part of a crisis of market governance and exclusion. Lead multinational companies include those of US origin, led by Tyson Foods and Cargill, and practices highlighted by these companies are part of a global footprint of economic power.
This research will map corporate control and its impact on market outcomes, linking concentration internationally (including USA corporates) with market outcomes in Africa. We will analyse the expanding economic power of multinational corporations in maize and soybean trading and processing to animal feed and poultry in select countries in southern and east Africa. In mapping corporates from the USA across African countries and their network of arrangements including vertical integration, we will analyze the ways in which they control production and govern global value chains. We will also review and assess the work of competition authorities especially in dealing with mergers, including assessing cases and inquiries, institutional capabilities, and the legal standards and economic tests applied.
New Policy Horizons for Quantitative Analysis
Frank Pasquale, Brooklyn Law School
Jay Varellas, University of California, Berkeley.
What are the benefits of antitrust enforcement and regulation of large corporations? And how do we make sure they are measured fairly? The project New Policy Horizons for Quantitative Analysis will convene experts to answer these questions.
Quantitative methods have an uneasy place in administration. They promise to bring rigor and objectivity to policy evaluation; however, their application has often accelerated predictable injustices, marginalization, and alienation. The key problem is that while the costs of antitrust enforcement or regulation may be obvious, concentrated, and immediate, their benefits may be long-term and widely distributed.
One of the most familiar modern limits on regulation is the drive for cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to guide and constrain the regulatory state. Meanwhile, antitrust policymakers and judges in recent decades have often focused on the “consumer welfare” (CW) to be derived from business arrangements, an often narrow and biased measure of the true value of efforts to enhance competition. Neither CBA nor the CW standard has done enough to recognize the unique burdens that corporate concentration and lack of regulation imposed on marginalized communities, workers, consumers, and other groups under-represented in the political process. We hope to redress this disparity by proposing ways of ensuring those interests are better represented in key agencies.
Non-Solicitation Clauses in Public Sector Outsourcing Contracts
Peter Norlander, Loyola University Chicago
This project will break new ground by uncovering the extent of non-solicitation clauses in public sector supply chain networks.
Non-solicitation clauses are collusive pacts between employers that restrict competition for workers. Such anti-competitive clauses reduce workers’ power, and such outsourcing represents a threat to good jobs in the government sector, a potential loss of efficiency in the economy, and potential higher costs for citizens and taxpayers. While there may be narrow reasons in the public interest to restrict poaching in the outsourcing context, some clauses are extremely broad.
In the private sector, such clauses have led to litigation and action by state attorneys general. Private sector agreements are usually hidden from public scrutiny. However, no-poach agreements are written into public sector contracts with private sector outsourcing companies that provide labor services, and nearly all public sector contracts should be publicly accessible through Freedom of Information or Sunshine laws.
Building a contract database and analyzing the text of thousands of contracts will be the first step. I partnered with MuckRock to file document requests and a talented information scientist to build the database, and hope to be able to share the results with the public in about a year.
Regulating US-Based Big Tech Beyond Local Markets: Antitrust for Africa
Vellah Kedogo Kigwiru AND Zlatina Georgieva, Hochshule für Politik Technical University of Munich.
This project builds on the realization that big tech companies –Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft– concentration of power and anti-competitive conduct is not a problem limited to developed countries alone. It is a global issue that requires a global solution and global enforcement. The big tech companies, for instance, are increasingly marking inroads in emerging markets. In Africa, unfortunately, recent scholarly work shows that big tech companies are taking advantage of unregulated territories and disadvantaged populations for digital experiments and data extraction to increase their global market dominance, especially through zero-rating offers, which removes data costs associated with certain content. Additionally, African competition authorities are grappling with various enforcement challenges specific to digital markets: jurisdictional questions resulting from big tech companies having no physical presence on the continent, the inadequacy of the current enforcement tools, and limited expertise. In the absence of African competition agencies monitoring big tech’s market entry strategies, the latter are more likely to increase their concentration of power and abuse their dominant position unnoticed. In this project, we venture into a search for a solution in the context of African competition agencies and the lesson they can draw from the US and EU digital markets regulatory policies.
Regulatory Managerialism and the Rule of Law
Ari Ezra Waldman, Northeastern University
Julie E. Cohen, Georgetown University
The regulatory state’s increasing entanglement with managerial governance is undertheorized. A quarter century ago, a prominent strand of writing on administrative law and regulatory theory identified a new approach to regulation that it called the “new governance.” But the outputs of managerial frameworks are largely unreviewable by courts, and underresourced regulators have been largely unable (and, often, unmotivated) to peer under the hood of managerial governance models. Proposals for new federal and state privacy legislation in the U.S. would largely codify and cement these developments, undermining prospects for more meaningful public accountability. In other words, we sit at a crucial juncture: Without a new paradigm for public oversight of these processes, we risk entrenching public disempowerment in the face of the managerial turn.
In this project, we will help develop a new paradigm for public oversight of information-intensive economic sectors and activities. Its goals are twofold. First, we seek to develop a vocabulary and a set of concepts for describing regulatory managerialism and its current implementations. Second, we seek to develop the theoretical foundation and a set of more concrete recommendations for assimilating the managerial turn in governance to the rule of law. More specifically, we will ask: (1) What are the elements of regulatory managerialism, including both practices and underlying logics? (2) What are the specific mechanisms by which regulatory managerialism currently resists and coopts preexisting legal-institutional frameworks (3) What are the necessary elements of a new paradigm for publicly accountable and inclusive managerial oversight that can be harnessed to advance democratic values? (4) How might we begin to design and build out these elements?
Shades of Decentralization: Decentralizing, Centralizing, and Re-Decentralizing Digital Infrastructures for a Global Democratic Public Sphere
Elettra Bietti, NYU School of Law, Cornell Tech
Friso Bostoen, KU Leuven
Jacquelene Mwangi, Harvard Law School
The internet, which was initially conceived as a decentralized, open and interoperable mode of communication, is now controlled by a handful of for-profit actors such as Google/Alphabet, Facebook/Meta, Amazon or Apple. Our aim in this project is to critically assess efforts that seek to re-decentralize the internet and their effects on public discourse. We adopt a comparative lens and consider the effects and limits of re-decentralization efforts on the digital public sphere in three regions: the United States, European Union and select African countries. The hope is that regional differences can shed new light on the virtues and limits of centralized and decentralized infrastructures and can inform lawyers and policy-makers seeking to address digital platform power around the world.
Spiders in the Web: A Social Network Analysis of Dependency in U.S. Industrial Agriculture
Loka Ashwood, University of Kentucky
Mary Hendrickson, University of Missouri
Phil Howard, Michigan State University
Andy Pilny, University of Kentucky
Critics charge that agriculture has reached an unsustainable level of consolidation and expropriation, as exemplified by the supply-chain breakdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously, advocates suggest the current system serves consumers well by keeping prices low and access to choices high. At the center of this debate rests a disagreement over how to compute market power to identify monopolies or monopsonies.
We propose a method to study power across different sectors by using Social Network Analysis (SNA) to analyze key players, the presence of core-periphery structures, and agricultural consolidation. We apply network exchange theory (NET) to our inter-sectoral analysis and in doing so merge methodological attention to finance and credit with a potentially new approach to studying monopoly power.
The Effect of Buyer Power on Occupational Illness and Injuries at Upstream Suppliers
Brian Callaci, Open Markets Institute
Marshall Steinbaum, University of Utah
How has increased buyer concentration and buyer power affected worker health and safety in supply chains? Large retailers have been some of the major economic winners from the pandemic. There is already evidence that suppliers facing large buyers like these earn lower profits and pay lower wages than similar firms in more competitive markets, but the implications of buyer power on occupational health and safety remains understudied. Pricing pressure from large buyers might leave suppliers with fewer resources to invest in safety measures like machine guarding or personal protective equipment. Pricing pressures might also encourage corner-cutting in aspects of plant safety like line speed. On the other hand, large buyers may have a greater ability to engage in long-term, mutually beneficial contracting that may have benefits for plant safety. Combining data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses with financial data from US publicly traded companies, this research project will study what the effect of buyer concentration and buyer power on worker health and safety in supply chains has been.
The Impact of Private Equity Roll-Up Strategies on Competition
Laura Alexander, American Antitrust Institute
Oscar Valdés Viera, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund
We seek to understand the impact of private equity roll-up strategies on competition. Our hypothesis is that the roll-up strategy deployed by private equity funds has a substantial and under- appreciated impact on competition in regional markets. Through an empirical investigation of a select regional market where private equity funds have invested heavily, our study will assess the impact of these investments on competition, concentration, quality, and prices.