Project 5 - Mergers
The Centres early research on mergers focused on policy evaluation, including the substantive test of lessening competition, and the efficacy of merger remedies. More recently, we have begun to investigate issues around coordinated effects and institutional design. Future research will develop the latter emerging themes, continue work on evaluation and add a new focus on third party (i.e. non-merging) firms.
Much has been written on transatlantic differences in substantive analysis; for example, attitudes to non-horizontal aspects of merger control and coordinated effects. There is a consensus that such differences, while remaining to an extent, are being reduced by convergence of merger standards and published guidelines. Much of this convergence has been a result of common academic economics training over the last 20 years. However, another source has received much less attention. Despite a common 2-stage approach to merger control, the way this is implemented provides some major international differences. For example, the UK has separate first and second phase institutions (OFT and CC); the EU requires the parties to provide most data during phase I whereas in the USA the main data request comes in the equivalent of phase II; and each regime has different resource allocations across phases. There are also differences in the way third parties can influence proceedings and in legal traditions of the interpretation of standards of proof.
As the content of economic analysis converges, the policy debate is likely to move towards the remaining institutional differences. The main questions addressed under this theme are:
Does the design of competition institutions tend to lead to biased decisions? How does the standard of proof vary internationally? How does the issue of plurality in media mergers affect their treatment? And how do mergers impact on product variety? How should buyer power affect merger appraisal? How does the ability of third parties to litigate affect the proposal of mergers, and agency response? This links with similar issues in the institutional theme above.