On the law and economics of public interest defense for cartels

The paper briefly reviews the way in which public interest considerations are currently recognized in cartel cases, before discussing the opportunity and feasibility of so doing based on the findings of economic analysis. The paper argues that the conclusions reached so far by the existing economic analysis on the topic do not seem to advocate in favour of a public interest defense for cartels.

I. Introduction 1. In September 2019, the US Department of Justice launched an investigation into an alleged antitrust violation by four major automakers, for passing an agreement with the state of California to meet stricter standards for tailpipe emissions than those of the federal administration. [1] 2. One could wonder about the reaction such an agreement would have triggered in Europe, where the extent to which competition authorities do and whether they should take into account non-competition interests (such as environmental protection or corporate social responsibility for instance) is currently under debate. 3. In February 2019, the European Parliament asked that European competition rules be adapted to include “sustainability factors,” such as fair trade or environmental

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