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The Evolution of U.S. Cartel Enforcement

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Antitrust as a whole was transformed owing in large part to Robert Bork in The Antitrust Paradox. This paper examines what Bork said and did not say about cartel enforcement and offers an examination of how the actual structure of cartel enforcement played out relative to what Bork advocated. To provide some perspective on Bork’s view of cartel enforcement, we compare his views with those of the other major influential antitrust book of the time by Richard Posner. We identify three distinct stages of cartel enforcement. Stage 1 is characterized by a low number of cartels prosecuted along with low fines and jail terms. Consistent with Bork’s vision, stage 2 demonstrates a significant increase in cartels prosecuted, although fines and jail terms remain low. Stage 3 (the current stage) exemplifies a decline in the number of cartels prosecuted relative to stage 2 but with dramatic increases in monetary fines and jail terms.

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