ICYMI: New Paper Offers Clear Evidence of Corporate Collusion, Profiteering

February 27, 2023 Groundwork Collaborative

Yesterday, Dr. Isabella Weber, professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Evan Wasner released a new working paper, “Sellers’ Inflation, Profit and Conflict: Why Can Large Firms Hike Prices in an Emergency?,” that offers new evidence of pandemic profiteering. Building on a previous paper, Dr. Weber and her co-author analyze corporate earnings calls to demonstrate how corporations exploited the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and other supply chain shocks. They find that corporations engaged in tacit collusion and exercised their monopoly power to raise prices and fatten profit margins. 

Groundwork’s Senior Economist Dr. Chris Becker, praised the paper with the following statement: 

“Dr. Weber’s new research makes it crystal clear how supply shocks allowed corporations to tacitly collude to hike prices and rake in record profits. As we’ve seen in our own research at Groundwork, CEOs have been explicit on their earnings calls about their ability to raise prices without fear of losing customers. This new paper captures what we have been saying all along: corporations are using their power to profiteer off of global crises.”

Email press@groundworkcollaborative.org to speak with Dr. Weber about this new paper and its impact on our understanding of inflation. And visit our website endcorporateprofiteering.org for Groundwork’s latest earnings call research on corporate profiteering and inflation.


Dr. Weber’s working paper, “Sellers’ Inflation, Profit and Conflict: Why can Large Firms hike Prices in an Emergency,” argues that corporations engaged in tacit collusion to raise prices across the board and rake in record profits. The paper draws on earnings calls from corporations like Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods, Exxon Mobil, and more. Toplines from the paper are below: 

  • Since the start of the pandemic, several sudden supply shocks raised costs across the board for corporations simultaneously. This gave them an incentive to tacitly collude to protect their common interest in maintaining or increasing profit margins by raising prices.
  • Supply shocks created a brand new opportunity for corporate profiteering. These conditions and excessive market power combine to drive up inflation and hurt consumers, especially low-income people who have been disproportionately affected by rising prices.
  • Corporations had license to hike prices much more dramatically and sharply than they could get away with in normal times.