Andrew Sweeting’s research and policy work directly addresses important antitrust topics.
Professor Sweeting was Economics Director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when the 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines and Commentary were released, and, while later withdrawn, these remain valuable guides to how agencies analyze non-horizontal transactions. He also oversaw the revitalization of the FTC’s Merger Retrospective program, aimed at supporting evidence-based merger review. He recently submitted comments to the agencies’ inquiry on merger enforcement, explaining the various roles that guidance can play and suggesting improvements to how agencies predict post-merger price changes and assess efficiencies.
While at the FTC, Professor Sweeting oversaw many merger investigations, including the litigated merger of Peabody and Arch Coal, where his research on dynamic competition was directly relevant. In addition, he was director when the FTC launched its antitrust litigation against Facebook, and was involved in high-profile consumer protection investigations, including several related to digital platforms and data security.
Professor Sweeting’s empirical and theoretical academic research has addressed numerous antitrust questions.
One strand has studied dynamic pricing, such as when firms price aggressively to gain share in order to benefit from learning-by-doing. A published paper shows how classic models that predict anticompetitive predation in this setting can break down when buyers exhibit even limited strategic behavior. A second strand models how firms will price when their competitors may use current prices to predict future pricing behavior. Another published paper demonstrates how this type of dynamic behavior contributed to sustained entry deterrence in U.S. airline markets.
Other recent papers show how this type of behavior can also lead to substantially larger post-merger price increases, and lower pass-through of synergies, than pricing pressure calculations or merger simulations would predict. Earlier published research provided empirical evidence of a more standard dynamic pricing story—collusion—in the regulated UK electricity market.
Professor Sweeting’s research has also investigated how mergers induce changes in product positioning, For example, a published analysis of the music radio industry showed how multi-station owners changed playlists to increase their listenership, and take listeners from rivals. Recently published work, which previously won the 2018 Robert F. Lanzillotti Prize for the Best Paper in Antitrust Economics, shows how to extend merger simulation methods to account for post-merger repositioning by rivals, and illustrates how the proposed approach leads to more accurate predictions of what happens after airline mergers.