Auctions for Social Lending: A Theoretical Analysis

By Ning ChenArpita GhoshNicolas S. Lambert
Games and Economic Behavior
July2014 Vol. 86 Pages 367–391.

Prosper, today the second largest social lending marketplace with nearly 1.5 million members and $380 million in funded loans, employed an auction mechanism amongst lenders to finance each borrower’s loan until 2010. Given that a basic premise of social lending is cheap loans for borrowers, how does the Prosper auction do in terms of the borrower’s payment, when lenders are strategic agents with private true interest rates? We first analyze the Pros- per auction as a game of complete information and fully characterize its Nash equilibria, and show that the uniform-price Prosper mechanism, while simple, can lead to much larger payments for the borrower than the VCG mechanism. We next compare the Prosper mechanism against the borrower-optimal auction in an incomplete information setting, and conclude by examining the Prosper mechanism when modeled as a dynamic auction, and provide tight bounds on the price for a general class of bidding strategies.