NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Rules, Communication and Collusion: Narrative Evidence from the Sugar Institute Case

David Genesove, Wallace P. Mullin

NBER Working Paper No. 8145
Issued in March 2001
NBER Program(s):   IO

Detailed notes on weekly meetings of the sugar refining cartel show how communication helps firms collude, and so highlight the deficiencies in the current formal theory of collusion. The Sugar Institute did not fix prices or output. Prices were increased by homogenizing business practices to make price cutting more transparent. Meetings were used to interpret and adapt the agreement, coordinate on jointly profitable actions, ensure unilateral actions were not misconstrued as cheating, and determine whether cheating had occurred. In contrast to established theories, cheating did occur, but sparked only limited retaliation, partly due to the contractual relations with selling agents.

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Published: Genesove, David and Wallace P. Mullin. "Rules, Communication, And Collusion: Narrative Evidence From The Sugar Institute Case," American Economic Review, 2001, v91(3,Jun), 379-398.

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