Professor Anu Bradford Sheds Light on Antitrust Law

Bradford launched what may be the world’s most ambitious effort to collect data on antitrust law worldwide, with the goal of highlighting its drivers and impact on competition.

Over the past 60 years, antitrust law has proliferated worldwide as governments strive to promote competition and improve functioning of markets. But until now there has been a dearth of evidence that can inform debate over whether those polices work.

Researchers at Columbia Law School are drawing on data to address the deficiency. Starting five years ago, Professor Anu Bradford launched what may be the world’s most ambitious effort to date to collect data on antitrust law worldwide, with the goal of shedding light on its drivers and impact on competition.

The initiative tapped teams of students led by Christopher Megaw ’14, Nathaniel Sokol ’16, and Alexander Weaver ’16 to assemble data from 100 countries that documents growth in antitrust regimes, legislation that has emerged and trends in enforcement activity.

To date, the researchers—with financial support from the National Science Foundation and the Columbia Global Policy Initiative and cooperation from more than 90 enforcement agencies worldwide—have gathered nearly 70,000 individual data points that provide academics, policymakers, international institutions, and market participants with a dataset that can enable them to better understand relationships between antitrust regulation and competitiveness.

Growth in antitrust legal regimes since 1960.

“International institutions and governments have promoted antitrust policy as an important regulatory tool to enhance competitiveness and market performance,” Bradford explained. “At the same time, we have scant empirical evidence on what drives adoption of such policies, how they differ or converge across jurisdictions, how they are being enforced, and what effects they have on market outcomes. Our dataset provides an empirical foundation to answer these key questions.”

Shedding light on competition policy worldwide

Bradford and her colleagues across Columbia and around the world are drawing on the data to inform research into a series of questions about competition and markets worldwide. Together with Professor Sharyn O’Halloran of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Thomas Groll, a SIPA lecturer, Bradford is using the data to develop a series of papers that examine whether antitrust laws lead to more efficient markets.

Megaw, Sokol, and Weaver joined the faculty members in Paris recently for a two-day conference on law, competition, and markets hosted by Columbia Global Centers, where the group presented findings that encompass:

  • The proliferation of antitrust laws since 1960 and acceleration of their adoption following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
  • Patterns in antitrust enforcement worldwide, including a high degree of concentration of enforcement activity in leading markets and the outlier status of Russia with its distinct enforcement policy targeted at price control.
  • The relative influence of the United States and the European Union on international antitrust regimes. Megaw, Sokol, and Weaver reviewed the relatively greater influence of the EU in antitrust compared with law from the U.S., findings that draw on both the dataset and scholarship by Bradford, who coined the term “Brussels effect” to describe the European Union’s ability to influence global regulation.

Together with Professor Adam Chilton of the University of Chicago Law School, Bradford also is using the dataset to examine the relationship between competition policy and trade. Their research examines whether free trade alone promotes competitive markets or whether trade and antitrust complement each other.

Law students (now alumni) turned team leaders

From left to right: Nathaniel Sokol ’16, Alexander Weaver ’16, Christopher Megaw ’14, and Professor Anu Bradford.

As students, Megaw, Sokol, and Weaver led teams that focused on data collection and the management of the complex datasets. Now as alumni their work with Bradford continues.

Megaw, who interned at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, is an associate in the antitrust practice at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C. Weaver joined Linklaters in New York, where he works on complex international transactions.

Sokol, an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York, credits the work with Bradford with helping to prepare him for his career. “Everything at a firm is team-based,” he said. “As you graduate up the levels of seniority, you are given jobs and responsibilities of delegation and review without much training.”

Bradford said the leadership that Megaw, Sokol, and Weaver provided as students was invaluable, and that over the course of the project they became her peers.

“It wasn’t as if I was just giving them orders they were executing, they were leading this entire research project with me,” said Bradford. “They had a lot of responsibility and took full intellectual ownership of the project. I couldn’t be more proud.”

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Posted on June 22, 2017