Discussion paper

DP6829 Asymmetric Cartels - a Theory of Ring Leaders

Many convicted cartels have a leader which is substantially larger than its rivals. In a setting where firms face indivisible costs of collusion, we show that: (i) firms may have an incentive to merge so as to create asymmetric market structures since this enables the merged firm to cover the indivisible cost associated with cartel leadership; and (ii) forbidding mergers leading to symmetric market structures can induce mergers leading to asymmetric market structures with a higher risk of collusion. Thus, these results have implications for the practice of the current EU and US merger policies.


Persson, L, M Ganslandt and H Vasconcelos (2008), ‘DP6829 Asymmetric Cartels - a Theory of Ring Leaders‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 6829. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp6829