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经济学人:商业组织联合体 机制正被打破

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Cartel-busting

商业组织联合体机制正被打破
Boring can still be bad
无趣之势依旧呈现糟糕状态
Market-rigging in unsexy industries costs consumers a lot. More can be done to detect and deter it.
无聊行业在操纵市场方面使得消费者耗资巨大。对此,政府可以施行更多的措施检测和阻止这一现象的发生。
MENTION price cartels and many people will think of big, overt ones like the one OPEC runs for oil and the now-extinct one for diamonds. But at least as damaging are the many secret cartels in such unglamorous areas as ball-bearings and cargo rates, which go on unnoticed for years, quietly bumping up the end cost to consumers of all manner of goods and services.
提到价格垄断,很多人会想到一些大型和公开明显的垄断企业,如欧佩克石油输出国家组织以及现今已经退出市场的钻石垄断公司。然而,至少在单调乏味的领域,有很多秘密运营的垄断企业,诸如轴承和货运费率领域里也同样具有损害性,这些企业数年未被关注,最近在各大产品和服务方面,迅速增长其对客户的所需产品和服务的首尾成本。

Collusion among producers to rig prices and carve up markets is thriving, with the cartels growing ever more intricate and global in scope. Competition authorities have uncovered several whopping conspiracies in recent years, including one in which more than 20 airlines worldwide had fixed prices on perhaps 20 billion of freight shipments. They were fined a total of 3 billion; and so far the compensation claims from ripped-off customers comfortably exceed 1 billion. One academic study found that the typical cartel raised the price of the goods or services in question by 20%. Another suggested that cartels were robbing poor countries'consumers of tens of billions of dollars a year: if so, negating all the aid that rich countries'governments send them.

随着卡特尔垄断更为复杂地增长并且呈全球范围扩展的趋势,生产者共同谋求操纵以及划分市场的现象正逐渐兴盛起来。竞争当局发现近年来存在一些巨大的阴谋,包括超过二十多条的国际航线之一的一家公司,私定200亿元的货物装运价格。他们因此被处以30亿元的罚款;并且到目前为止那些确定为敲消费者竹杠的公司被处以的赔偿金超出了10亿元。一个学术研究表明典型的卡特尔垄断使得有疑问的商品和服务增长了20%。另一个研究表明卡特尔垄断是从贫困国家的消费者中剥夺了他们平均一年上百亿美元的钱财:如果正如这样所说,否定所有富有国家政府对他们施行的援助是有道理的。
Investigators are still unravelling a huge global network of cartels among suppliers of a wide range of car parts. Makers of seat belts, radiators and foam seat-stuffing have had hefty fines slapped on them. Earlier this month the European Commission fined five makers of automotive bearings a total of 953m (1.32 billion). This week its investigators raided a bunch of makers of car exhausts. Also in recent days, Brazilian prosecutors have charged executives from a dozen foreign train-makers accused of rigging bids for rail and subway contracts in the country's main cities. Price-fixing has infected high finance, too. Some of banking's biggest names stand accused of fiddling interest-rate and foreign-exchange benchmarks.
研究调查者仍然在试图解决一项关于大量汽车零部件供应商的巨大国际垄断网络问题。汽车座位安全带、散热器和泡沫座位填充物的生产者,已经被处以了巨额的罚款。这个月早些时候,欧洲委员会对汽车轴承的制造商处以了总计13.2亿元的罚款。这个星期,调查者们突袭了一群汽车尾气的制造商。并且在最近几天,巴西的告发者起诉了十几个国外火车制造商的高管,缘由是他们在国家主要的城市垄断铁轨和地铁合同的竞标。操纵价格也已经同样影响到了巨额的投资。银行的大腕们也面临着人们对其摆弄利率和银行基准的指责。
The good news is that enforcement has got tougher, smarter and more co-ordinated. Gone are the days when price-fixers got a slap on the wrist. Firms can expect swingeing fines, and bosses can go to jail. Since many cartels now operate across borders, so do investigators: American and Japanese trustbusters joined forces to flush out the car-parts cartels. And incentives for whistleblowers have also increased: around 50 countries now offer immunity or reduced penalties for snitches.
好消息是,执法方面变得更为严格,更加智能,也更为协调。价格固定器被撞到腰的日子一去不复返了。企业可以预期被处以巨额的罚款,老板可能会进监狱。由于许多卡特尔垄断组织从事跨国经营,调查者们也同样是跨国合作的:美国和日本的反托拉斯者联手改变汽车零部件垄断现象。并使举报人的奖励也得以增加:约50个国家现在规定提供豁免权或对打小报告减少处罚。
That is all for the better, but the penalties for price-fixing remain too mild. The best study of the issue so far concluded that, given the still-low risk of detection, collusion pays. Yet beyond a certain point—which the fines now imposed by American and European regulators have probably reached—fines inflict so much damage on guilty companies that they undermine competition instead of enhancing it. The answer is stiffer prison sentences, particularly for senior executives. American courts, only too ready to lock up other types of miscreants for a long time, have rarely jailed egregious price-fixers for anything like the maximum of ten years that the law allows. Other countries have even more scope to increase sentences.
这是为了能够使得情况有所好转,但是对于操纵价格的处罚仍然过于温和。这个问题的最好的研究,就是到目前为止的结论是,鉴于检测仍低风险,共谋会付出代价。然而,除这点之外,现在由美国和欧洲监管机构处以的罚款可能已经达到——罚款对于有罪责的公司所造成的破坏,相比提升其竞争力而言,反而削弱了该公司的竞争力。答案就是严厉的监狱服刑,特别是对于高级管理人员的处罚。美国法院很愿意关押其他类型的歹徒达更长的时间,他们很少对过分的价格制定者实行监禁,比如法律所允许的最长可达十年的监禁期。其他国家拥有更多的增加刑罚的范围权限。
Buy some geeks
购买一些技术型极客
More can be done to aid detection, too. Statistical tests to “screen” markets for unusual pricing patterns helped uncover the interest-rate and foreign-exchange scandals. Potential conspirators may think twice if they suspect their market is being screened. European and Latin American trustbusters are making good use of the technique; their American counterparts should do so, too. Deploying such cutting-edge technology is costly; and increased funding is a big ask at a time of public-sector parsimony. But cartel authorities in Europe and America generally bring in far more than they cost to run, so extra money pushed in their direction is likely to be well spent.
同样也有更多可以帮助检测的办法。统计测试表明屏蔽市场不寻常的定价模式有助于揭开利率和外汇丑闻。如果潜在的阴谋者他们怀疑自己的市场被屏蔽,可能会三思而后行。欧洲和拉丁美洲的反托拉斯人员正利用该技术;他们的美国同行们应该也这样做。部署这种先进的技术是昂贵的;而增加的资金对公共部门而言,每次都是一个很大的要求。但在欧洲和美国卡特尔当局通常会远远超过他们的成本运行,因此多余的钱促使他们朝着自己的方向,用得其所。
Another way to discourage the formation of cartels is to factor the increased risk of collusion into scrutiny of proposed mergers. Price-fixing is likelier, and easier to sustain, with fewer players. This could never be the primary determinant in competition decisions, but it should be in the mix. Blocking a few more mergers—whose benefits anyway tend to be over-egged—might both save companies from themselves and spare their customers the costs of collusion.
另一种方法来阻止卡特尔的形成,是官商勾结因素的危险性增加,被作为合并建议的审查考虑在内。操纵价格是更有可能的,并且更容易维持,只需要较少的参与者。这不可能是竞争决策的主要决定因素,但它应加以进行混合调整。阻止少数几个兼并者——这种行动所带来的收益往往是在过度怂恿之下促成的—这样既为企业节省了他们自己的开支,也使得企业对客户活动追踪的成本得以减少。译者:肖登怡

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