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Gender inclusive competition policy – ABATE & BRUNELLE – February 2021 OECD workshop

This presentation explained project #3 of the workshop on Gender inclusive competition policy held virtually on 25 February 2021.

More papers and presentations on the topic can be found out at oe.cd/gicp.

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Gender inclusive competition policy – ABATE & BRUNELLE – February 2021 OECD workshop

  1. 1. Cartel Behaviour and Boys’ Club Dynamics Carolina Abate, OECD and Alexis Brunelle, Autorité de la concurrence OECDWorkshop on Gender and Competition 25 February 2021
  2. 2. Main hypothesis and methodology  Gender and participation in cartels: it is not about the essential nature of men and women, but about network dynamics and social structure  Preservation of shared values, loyalty and homosocial patterns within male informal professional networks is a key factor for the maintenance of cartel practices  Theoretical framework based on behavioural economics, cartel studies, white collar crime and gender studies (multi-disciplinary approach)  Systematic analysis of cartel cases sanctioned by the French competition authority: real life illustrations of “boys’ clubs” dynamics in cartels
  3. 3. Behavioural components of cartels • Cartels are non only about rational behaviour and game theory : emergence of behavioural economics considerations in cartel studies (Stucke 2010) • Emphasis on personal, relational, psychological factors (culture, social norms, networks, personal interest, status, opportunity etc.) • Participants act within formal and informal networks, and take into account collective values What we see in cartel cases.. • In cartel cases interpersonal relationships are key, and these are affected by gender • Contacts between participants are personal and not organized on a firm to firm basis • Evidence of typical “boys’ club” or “locker room” vocabulary : “loyalty”, “keeping your word”, “friends”, “treason”, “confrères”, “knighting” etc. • Frequent reference to loyalty, trust, and preservation of the respectability of the profession/sector
  4. 4. Gender studies and professional networks • Informal networks as key element for access to company leaders, visibility and promotion • Women benefit less from informal networks: “women as outsiders” • Women question policy more and are disruptive of implicit but entrenched loyalties: “women as mavericks” • Not due to an “essential nature” of women but to structural and situational factors: expected gender roles and hierarchies What we see in cartel cases.. • The main network of participants, or “core coalition” is almost exclusively male • Presence of women mostly as organizational role, mere application of policy discussed within male networks • When women participate in equal capacity: less emphasis on interpersonal relationships and more objective references to policies pursued by the firm as an institution • When firm’s representative changes from man to woman: much fewer contacts and less consistent application; fine reduction for “maverick behaviour”
  5. 5. White collar crimes literature • Studies on other white collar crimes focus on social norms, informal networks and gender • Women do not behave differently because of intrinsic differences (e.g higher moral standards) but because of social dynamics • Emphasis on homosocial trust in male- dominated networks and common identity bias (e.g. common gender enables private information sharing) • Consistent and substantial limitation to women’s participation to informal and professional networks, which are key for white collar crimes’ dynamics  minimal and marginal female involvement in corporate criminal networks What we see in cartel cases.. • When women enter a cartel based on a long standing interpersonal network, interactions with other members appear more limited • In other instances, presence of women is short lived, and female representatives are quickly replaced by men more familiar to the habitus of the social circle involved • When women are fully included in networks, apply official corporate policy or create common gender cooperation  efficient cartel participation can be observed • No evidence of cartels based on informal networks where men and women are mixed and equals
  6. 6. Why this is important • It demonstrates that behavioural analysis of economic agents and of their relations both amongst them and with the institutions they work for, may very well constitute the core of cartel analysis • These aspects could be key to determine how perpetrators balance the terms of incentives and deterrence, and going forward should no longer be included only as marginal explanations • It shows that the wealth of research and literature available for other white collar crimes can be used as reference point to develop our understandings of the dynamics of illicit behaviour • It brings to light the fact that the continued exclusion of women from a number of work opportunities, on the one hand, and increased sustainability of cartels, on the other hand, share common factors and circumstances
  7. 7. Limitations at this stage Scope • Focus on the enforcement policy of only one competition authority, over a period of about ten years • A majority of cartels do not include female participants at all, so any analysis of the matter must take into account that most economic sectors are strongly male-dominated in order to be correctly interpreted Depth • Decisions published by competition authorities are generally limited to factual considerations that are necessary to demonstrate the existence of an infringement • Many elements that would be relevant for the understanding of inter-sex dynamics do not appear in the evidence signaled by the decision • Only an in-depth analysis of each case file will allow us to lay out the intricacies of interpersonal relations
  8. 8. Update since 25 February 2021 Theoretical framework • Inclusion of new elements on gender studies with a focus on : • The implicit nature of gender perceptions and gender role allocation • The apparent masking of gender dynamics at the workplace, through a supposedly “neutral” environment • Differences between men and women in terms of hierarchy and team building • Development of a stronger link between gender studies and works on white collar crime through the notions of “gendered organisations” and “common gender bias” Case analysis • Near completion of case analysis allowing some early stage conclusions: • Notions of “core coalition” applying to the inner circle of cartel members • Out of more than 40 cases, only 1 woman full member of a core coalition • Clear gendered roles in cartel behaviour: • Leading role of men regardless of their status/function in employing firm • “Women as outsiders” : “secretarial” role of women regardless of their status/function in employing firm • “Women as mavericks” : more instances of distinct behaviour and/or pursuance of separate goals
  9. 9. Conclusion Continued gender imbalance constitutes an important risk factor for cartel practices, it should: • Be included as a relevant screening element for the enforcement policy of competition authorities • Be included as a major point of attention for compliance officials within corporate organisations To be continued…

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