Simultaneous Auctions Are (Almost) Efficient



Hu Fu

Monday, May 6, 2013
4:00pm 5130
Upson Hall



Simultaneous item auctions are simple and practical procedures for allocating items to bidders with potentially complex preferences. In a simultaneous auction, every bidder submits independent bids on all items simultaneously. The allocation and prices are then resolved for each item separately, based solely on the bids submitted on that item. We study the efficiency of Bayesian Nash equilibrium (BNE) outcomes of simultaneous first- and second-price auctions when bidders have complement-free (a.k.a. subadditive) valuations. While it is known that the social welfare of every pure Nash equilibrium (NE) constitutes a constant fraction of the optimal social welfare, a pure NE rarely exists, and moreover, the full information assumption is often unrealistic. Therefore, quantifying the social welfare in any BNE is of particular interest. Previous work established a logarithmic bound on the ratio between the social welfare of a BNE and the expected optimal social welfare in both first-price auctions (Hassidim et al. '11) and second-price auctions (Bhawalkar and Roughgarden '11), leaving a large gap between a constant and a logarithmic ratio. We introduce a new proof technique and use it to resolve both of these gaps in a unified way. Specifically, we show that the expected social welfare of any BNE is at least 1/2 of the optimal social welfare in the case of first-price auctions, and at least 1/4 in the case of second-price auctions.

This is joint work with Michal Feldman, Nick Gravin and Brendan Lucier.