Verifiable Offers and the Relationship between Auctions and Multilateral Negotiations*

Abstract

We use the experimental method to compare second-price auctions with verifiable multilateral negotiations in which the sole buyer can credibly reveal to sellers the best price offer he currently holds. Despite the two institutions seeming equivalence, we find that prices are lower in verifiable multilateral negotiations than in second-price auctions. The difference occurs because low-cost sellers in negotiations often submit initial offers below the second-lowest cost. We also compare the two institutions to previously studied first-price auctions and multilateral negotiations with non-verifiable offers. Second-price auctions yield the highest prices, followed in order by verifiable negotiations, non-verifiable negotiations and first-price auctions.

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