Antitrust in the era of Amazon

This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

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The derivatives exposure of Deutsche Bank is €55,000 billion

The two global banks with the largest derivatives exposures are J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank. The derivatives exposure of J.P. Morgan is around $70,000 billion and of Deutsche Bank €55,000 billion. These figures are, respectively, about one-and-a-half times the total value of all the assets in the USA, and twenty times German national income. But the numbers in the balance sheets of these banks are much lower. Deutsche Bank declares its investment in derivatives at €768 billion: not a small amount, but only a modest fraction of the bank’s exposure. Deutsche Bank’s financial position is set out in Fig. 9.
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Big executive pay not for performance, but for underperformance.

We’d probably expect to see a pretty tenuous relationship between companies’ share price performances and the rewards of those at the top of them. We’d also probably expect to see a one-way ratchet, where pay goes up in good times for a company, but rarely falls in bad times. We probably expect to see executives quite often rewarded for luck, rather than skill.

And guess what? Those things are precisely what the latest data does suggest. The financial data firm MSCI has taken a sample of 428 large listed American companies and examined their performance between 2006 and 2015. And MSCI has found that shareholder returns at those firms whose boss earned below the median of their sector outperformed those firms whose boss earned above the median.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Critiques of Capitalism and Militarism

America’s celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. typically focus on his civil rights activism: the nonviolent actions that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The last few years of King’s life, by contrast, are generally overlooked. When he was assassinated in 1968, King was in the midst of waging a radical campaign against economic inequality and poverty, while protesting vigorously against the Vietnam War. Continue reading

Cartel Corporation Cocaine Capitalism

A new book by Roberto Saviano:

The realisation that cocaine capitalism is central to our economic universe made Escobar the Copernicus of organised crime, argues Saviano, adding: “No business in the world is so dynamic, so restlessly innovative, so loyal to the pure free-market spirit as the global cocaine business.” It sounds simple, but it isn’t – it is revolutionary and, says Saviano, it explains the world. …
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A conversation between David Graeber and Thomas Piketty

On capital, debt and the future of capitalism.

Soak the Rich