DP11944 Collusion and Information Revelation in Auctions

Author(s): Aniol Llorente-Saguer, Ro'i Zultan
Publication Date: March 2017
Keyword(s): auctions, Collusion, Experiment
JEL(s): C72, C91, D44
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11944

The theoretical literature on collusion in auctions suggests that the first-price mechanism can deter the formation of bidding rings. However, such analyses neglect to consider the effects of failed collusion attempts, wherein information revealed in the negotiation process may affect bidding behavior. We experimentally test a setup in which theory predicts no collusion and no information revelation in first-price auctions. The results reveal a hitherto overlooked failing of the first-price mechanism: failed collusion attempts distort bidding behavior, resulting in a loss of seller revenue and efficiency. Moreover, the first-price mechanism does not result in less collusion than the second-price mechanism. We conclude that, while the features of the first-price mechanism may have the potential to deter bidder collusion, the role of beliefs in guiding bidding behavior make it highly susceptible to distortions arising from the informational properties of collusive negotiation. Auction designers should take this phenomenon into account when choosing the auction mechanism.