Review of Industrial Organization 21: 325–327, 2002.
Global Price Fixing: Our Customers are the Enemy, John M. Connor. Boston:
Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001, 598 pages, $180.
During the ﬁrst half of the last century international cartels abounded. They re-
strained trade in oil, chemicals, aluminum, and many other products. They attrac-
ted congressional hearings, prompted antitrust cases, and inspired the research of
notable scholars like Corwin Edwards, George Stocking, and Myron Watkins.
Except for OPEC, international cartels then seemed to disappear for about four
decades. Only a small handful of the Justice Department’s price ﬁxing cases in-
cluded foreign ﬁrms during 1955–1984, none at all during 1985–1994.
Now we are in the midst of a rousing revival. Since 1994 more than 20 global
cartels have been discovered in citric acid, vitamins, lysine, sodium gluconate,
heavy-lift marine transport, graphite electrodes, sorbates, bromines, and other pro-
ducts. Whereas before 1995 less than 1 percent of all defendants in DOJ criminal
price ﬁxing cases were foreign, during 1997–1999 ﬁfty percent were foreign. Many
billions of dollars of business have been afﬂicted worldwide.
Beﬁtting the immense scope and impact of these recent developments, John
Connor has written an immense and marvelous book on the subject. He says at the
outset that his goal is “to describe and analyze the origins, operation, and impact
of global cartels in the markets for lysine, citric acid, and vitamins” (p. 1). He
succeeds nicely in this goal, drawing on his extensive experience as a consultant
to plaintiffs in these cases and also drawing on a vast amount of publicly available
information on these industries, which together have accounted for over 60 percent
of U.S. sales recently governed by international cartels. But he succeeds in much
more as well.
Connor begins his analysis with an extensive review of the literature on the
economics of price ﬁxing. He explains the purpose, nature, and mechanics of price
ﬁxing in its various forms – e.g., agreements on transaction prices or discounts and
allocations of customers. The conditions that facilitate collusion are also discussed,
followed by a summary of economic effects. Connor then concludes the introduct-
ory material with a chapter-length survey of anticartel laws and their enforcement.
This survey focuses on the U.S., but includes foreign activities as well with a
summary of sanctions abroad.