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Contrary to conventional thinking about the purposes and effects of antitrust law enforcement, the personal fortune of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., tripled in the wake of the…
Contrary to conventional thinking about the purposes and effects of antitrust law enforcement, the personal fortune of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., tripled in the wake of the Supreme Court’s May 1911 order dissolving the Standard Oil trust. This paper summarizes alternative explanations for that unexpected outcome, tests them empirically and finds them deficient. Coupled with new evidence confirming that major events related to Rockefeller’s antitrust encounter did not produce statistically significant abnormal returns for the company’s stockholders, we conclude that the market failed to react to news of the trust’s dismantling because investors expected the government’s remedy to prove ineffective.
This is the first paper in a volume devoted exclusively to antitrust law and economics. It summarizes the other papers and addresses two issues. First, after showing that the federal courts generally view consumer welfare as the ultimate goal of antitrust law, it asks what they mean by that term. It concludes that recent decisions appear more likely to equate consumer welfare with the well-being of consumers in the relevant market than with economic efficiency. Second, it asks whether a buyer must possess monopsony power to induce a price discrimination that is not cost justified. It concludes that a buyer can often obtain an unjustified concession simply by wielding bargaining power, but the resulting concession may frequently – though not always – improve consumer welfare.