Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tailoring Critical Loss to the Competitive Process

Malcolm B. Coate, U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Shawn W. Ulrick, U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and John M. Yun, George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty are Tailoring Critical Loss to the Competitive Process.

ABSTRACT: In 1989, Barry Harris & Joseph Simons developed a quantitative method to implement the Horizontal Merger Guidelines’ hypothetical monopolist test with a market-level “critical loss” analysis. The appeal of Harris & Simons’ framework is that it created a simple, intuitive approach to delineating markets — with relatively parsimonious data requirements. After over a decade of use, however, economists began to propose alternative approaches to the classic critical loss analysis — using theory to impose structure on firm-level demand. This allowed researchers to reformulate the critical loss test in terms of diversion ratios. The purpose of this paper is to discuss when the classic, market-level approach to critical loss is more appropriate and when firm-level critical loss offers an important refinement. We illustrate, with a detailed example, that under certain plausible demand scenarios, a diversion-based firm-level analysis could easily reach the wrong answer on market definition. Thus, the analyst needs to carefully study the competitive environment before deciding on the appropriate analysis. As a bottom line, the choice between market-level and firm-level analysis depends on the specific factual situation.

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