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About the Conference

In 2017, the Stigler Center embarked on an ambitious project to reinvigorate the discussion of concentration and monopoly in the United States, starting with the conference Is There a Concentration Problem in America? Five years later, our 2022 Conference Antitrust: What’s Next? discussed whether the field of competition policy reached an inflection point—both in academia and in policy—that may lead to once-in-a-generation changes. The general answer was yes. However, there was little agreement on how exactly a modern US antitrust policy should look like. Are we looking for incremental reforms or for a broader rethinking of the whole system?

The 2023 Conference Beyond The Consumer Welfare Standard? will focus on this case for change. Join us for two days of engaging discussions on what is the strength of the economic evidence connecting weak antitrust enforcement with negative societal impacts, the challenges in rethinking merger review, whether the "Consumer Welfare Standard" is only a catchphrase, whether there is a better standard to replace it and, finally, whether Courts are expected to be part of the movement to increase enforcement or defenders of the status quo, among other topics.

Please note that the conference is on the record, live-streamed, and recorded.

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This conference is by invitation only.

AGENDA (PDF version here)

subject to change; all times listed are Chicago/Central time

April 20, 2023

8:30 AM – 8:55 AM Breakfast
8:55 AM – 9:00 AM Welcome Remarks | Pietro Veronesi, University of Chicago
9:00 AM – 9:10 AM Opening Remarks | Filippo Lancieri, University of Chicago/ETH Zurich
9:10 AM – 11:00 AM

Antitrust Effects: The US Economy
Antitrust enforcement in the United States has undergone a steady decline since a peak in the 1970s. As we explored in past editions of this conference, this decline has been associated with a rise in economic concentration and markups, a decline in the labor share of profits, a rise in superstar firms, lower business dynamism and a general decrease in productivity growth (among others).

However, correlation is not causation. The morning session of our conference will explore the strength of the economic evidence connecting the decline in antitrust enforcement with negative effects on the US economy. The first panel will cover studies that focus on aggregate effects throughout the whole economy. The second panel covers studies focusing on specific US industries.

Moderator: Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica

Simcha Barkai, Boston College
John Kwoka, Northeastern University/U.S. Federal Trade Commission
Ioana Marinescu, University of Pennsylvania/U.S. Department of Justice
Martin Schmalz, University of Oxford
Chad Syverson, University of Chicago

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11:00 AM – 11:15 AM Break
11:15 AM – 12:45 PM

Antitrust Effects: US Industries

Moderator: David Dayen, The American Prospect

Leemore Dafny, Harvard University
Florian Ederer, Yale University
Shaoul Sussman, U.S. Federal Trade Commission 
Thomas Wollmann, University of Chicago

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12:45 PM – 1:00 PM Break
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Lunch | Keynote

Susan Athey, Stanford University/U.S. Department of Justice

In conversation with:

Tommaso Valletti, Imperial College London

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2:00 PM – 2:20 PM Break
2:20 PM – 4:00 PM

Magnates and (Social) Media Ownership
Following Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, all major social media platforms are either majority owned or controlled by only a handful of individuals. This, however, has long been a feature of legacy media, where families control many of the major newspapers and television channels. This panel will explore whether the relationship between magnates and social media is special, and why.

Moderator: Guy Rolnik, University of Chicago

Anat Admati, Stanford University
Cory Doctorow, Activist, Writer, Blogger
Roslyn Layton, Aalborg University
Dina Srinivasan, Researcher, Lawyer, and Entrepreneur
Matt Stoller, American Economic Liberties Project

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4:00 PM – 4:10 PM Break
4:10 PM – 6:00 PM Defining the Consumer Welfare Standard
AAG Jonathan Kanter has famously said that the Consumer Welfare Standard is a catchphrase, not a standard, because if one asks "five antitrust experts what the consumer welfare standard means, you will often get six different answers." Still, the standard is the prevailing guide to the enforcement of antitrust law in the United States. This panel will test AAG Kanter's remarks. It will ask five different antitrust experts what is the meaning of the standard. Let's see how many answers we will get.

Moderator: Luigi Zingales, University of Chicago

Cristina Caffarra, Keystone Strategy
Eleanor Fox, New York University
Barry Lynn, Open Markets Institute
Randal Picker, University of Chicago
Carl Shapiro, University of California Berkeley

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6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Reception
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM Dinner | Keynote: The Courts and Antitrust Policy 
US Courts were historically at the forefront of the changes that shaped current antitrust policy. As discussions about antitrust reform gain ground, an important question is whether Courts will again be agents of change, or whether they will support the status quo. Join us for a keynote conversation with two senior Judges and antitrust experts that will explore the ideal role for Courts in modern US antitrust enforcement.

Hon. Frank Easterbrook, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit/University of Chicago
Hon. Diane Wood, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit/University of Chicago

Moderator: Filippo Lancieri, University of Chicago/ETH Zurich

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April 21, 2023

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM Breakfast
8:30 AM – 9:15 AM Breakfast Keynote

Tim Wu, Columbia University

In conversation with:

Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times

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9:15 AM – 9:20 AM Break
9:20 AM – 10:50 AM

Ecosystems: Challenges to Antitrust
One of the areas under the most pressure for change is merger review. The two morning panels will explore two distinct aspects of merger review reform. The first is how antitrust tackles the increasing prevalence of digital and non-digital ecosystems, which challenge traditional horizontal/vertical distinctions in theories of harm. Are these modern conglomerates truly a potential "whack-a-mole monopolization machine," or are they mostly benign combinations between companies in adjacent markets? And how, if at all, should antitrust policy change to tackle these combinations?

Moderator: Filippo Lancieri, University of Chicago/ETH Zurich

Ioannis Lianos, Hellenic Competition Commission/University College London
Sorcha O'Carroll, U.K. Competition and Markets Authority
Patrick Rey, University of Toulouse
Howard Shelanski, Georgetown University

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10:50 AM – 11:00 AM Break
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Incorporating Labor Concerns in Merger Review: The Paths and Pitfalls
There are growing calls for antitrust to do more in labor markets, and indeed this is one of the spaces that has seen the most change in enforcement patterns over the past years. One key area is in merger review where, despite one important win, progress may seem somewhat uneven. This panel will discuss whether this growing interconnection is desirable, ways to implement it, and the potential pitfalls.

Moderator: Leah Nylen, Bloomberg

Dennis Carlton, University of Chicago
Felix Montag, Dartmouth College
Sanjukta Paul, University of Michigan
Holly Vedova, U.S. Federal Trade Commission

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12:30 PM – 12:45 PM Break
12:45 PM – 1:45 PM Lunch | Keynote: Rethinking the Burden of Proof in Mergers

Oliver Hart, Nobel Laureate, Harvard University

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1:45 PM – 2:00 PM Break
2:00 PM – 3:05 PM

New Ideas: An Optimal Standard for Antitrust Policy I
One of the most engaging panels in last year's conference discussed What is the Future of the Consumer Welfare Standard? The main question then was whether antitrust scholars and policymakers can develop an alternative but still administrable standard to guide U.S. antitrust policy in this new enforcement era. While there was a general agreement (on the panel and at the conference) that change is needed, there was little convergence on what an alternative standard—one that can be properly and coherently enforced by regulators and judges—may look like. That is why in preparation for this conference we put out a call for papers focused on the development of a legal/economic standard that can serve as a replacement for, or an improvement of, the current Consumer Welfare Standard.

The final three panels of our conference will be dedicated to discussing different views on what standard should guide modern antitrust policy. All contributions will be published in advance on the Stigler Center publication ProMarket.org, and authors will present and discuss them at the conference.

Moderator: Elettra Bietti, New York University

Herbert Hovenkamp, University of Pennsylvania (with Fiona Scott Morton, Yale University)
Stavros Makris, University of Glasgow
Tommaso Valletti, Imperial College London

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3:05 PM – 3:10 PM Break
3:10 PM – 4:15 PM

New Ideas: An Optimal Standard for Antitrust Policy II

Moderator: Elettra Bietti, New York University

Bennett Capers, Fordham University
Greg Day, University of Georgia
Eric Posner, University of Chicago
Steven Salop, Georgetown University

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4:15 PM – 4:20 PM Break
4:20 PM – 5:25 PM New Ideas: An Optimal Standard for Antitrust Policy III

Moderator: Cristina Caffarra, Keystone Strategy

Andrew Gavil, Howard University
William Kovacic, George Washington University
Barak Richman, Duke University

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5:25 PM – 5:30 PM Closing Remarks | Luigi Zingales, University of Chicago

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5:30 PM Conference Adjourns

Conference Organizers

  • Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance & Charles M. Harper Faculty Fellow, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Guy Rolnik, Clinical Professor of Strategic Management, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Filippo Lancieri, Post-Doctoral Fellow, ETH Zurich Center for Law and Economics; Research Fellow, Stigler Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Conference Venue:

Gleacher Center
450 Cityfront Plaza Dr, Chicago, IL 60611

For more information, contact:

Rachel Piontek, Senior Associate Director, Stigler Center
rachel.piontek@chicagobooth.edu