Wednesday, November 5, 2008
A Price-Fixer's Memoir — Exculpation and Revenge While Confronting the Antitrust Abyss: An Essay on Threshold Resistance by Alfred Taubman
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Arthur Austin (Case Western Law) has a wonderful new piece in the latest issue of the Antitrust Source on A Price-Fixer's Memoir — Exculpation and Revenge While Confronting the Antitrust Abyss: An Essay on Threshold Resistance by Alfred Taubman.
ABSTRACT: United States v. Taubman was a class-driven trial with a Henry James-Norman Mailer template: high art descends to the shopping mall. A Wall Street Journal article on the case was even entitled, To Sotheby’s Boss, Selling Art Is Much Like Selling Root Beer, a reference to the source of Sotheby’s chairman Alfred Taubman’s considerable wealth, shopping malls. Instead of testimony from accountants and economists duking it out over bookkeeping ploys and arcane marketing strategy, the public got haughty exchanges from specialists in wheeling and dealing Monets, Renoirs, and Warhols, while discussing price strategy. In 2005 I published an essay discussing Sotheby’s implications for the price-fixing narrative. Using Adam Smith’s commentary as the anchor, I focused on conspiracy—the most troublesome issue in the pricing conundrum. Two years later Taubman has published a candid account of his experiences, Threshold Resistance— a raw glimpse into his reactions to a conviction as one of the alleged instigators of the most pernicious form of commercial deviancy. This Essay seeks to fathom the psychology and tactics of the hunted as he responds to the accusations of a trusted colleague while coping with what Justice Holmes called a “foolish law.