This paper considers the question of tacit collusion in repeated auctions with independent private values and with limited public monitoring. McAfee and McMillan show that the extent of collusion is tied to the availability of transfers. Monetary transfers allow cartels to extract full surplus. A folk theorem proved by Fudenberg et al. (Econometrica 62 (1994) 997–1039) shows that transfers of future payoffs are almost as good if players are patient and communicate before auctions. We ask how the scope of collusion is affected if players dispense with explicit communication and their monitoring is limited. Collusion better than bid rotation is still feasible, but full surplus cannot be extracted. This constraint becomes less severe with more players and large cartels can become asymptotically efficient even with very limited monitoring.
(One of the 20 Most Cited articles 2004-2008 published in JET).