Professor Konrad Mierendorff
It is with deepest sorrow that we announce the passing of Konrad Mierendorff, an associate editor of JEEA. Konrad was not only an academic star having made central contributions to mechanism and information design, he was someone who loved to help others with thoughtful, honest and rigorous remarks on their research. He was encouraging, nurturing but at the same time always held the highest standards and had a keen eye for good research. Economic theory lost a star, JEEA lost an invaluable member and we lost a dear colleague and friend. We will miss you Konrad - thank you for the thoughtful exchanges, the inspiring chats over coffee and spontaneous checking-ins.
Some of us fondly remember the recruiting season of 2014 when Konrad joined UCL as an Assistant Professor after receiving his PhD from Bonn in 2010 and spending time as a postdoc researcher at the University of Zurich and Columbia University. Konrad, an avid rock-climber, rapidly climbed the academic ladder and was promoted in 2018 to Associate and in 2020 to Full Professor at UCL. In 2021, a few months prior to his tragic accident he was awarded a prestigious 5-year ERC consolidator grant. Konrad was a key pillar of UCL's department: he was involved in junior and senior recruitment, he was the tutor to international students, organized the theory seminar and the theory reading group. He was central in social gatherings: he loved grabbing us for a beer, a walk, a coffee and he was always there if someone needed a sounding board. He loved to bounce off ideas and he loved being there for us. It is hard to swallow his loss.
Konrad's papers are beautifully written. He tackled well-motivated questions, built elegant models and his analysis was elegant. It reflected his clear mind and strong technical background. Konrad tackled complex and practically relevant problems in dynamic mechanism and information design. In one of his early papers (his 2013, JET paper), he studied optimal auction design in settings in which the seller does not know buyers' deadlines. Konrad was thinking about online auctions, the sale of flight tickets, hotel reservations, or the sale of houses. In all these situations buyers arrive at different points in time and differ in how urgently they need the asset. This is a complex dynamic mechanism design problem, one in which the usual solution approach based on the relaxed problem (which sidesteps some implications of incentive constraints) developed in Myerson 1981 typically fails to yield a feasible mechanism. Konrad not only solved this complex problem, but also extended the important Border/ Maskin-Riley-Mathews condition in his Economics Letter 2011 paper to asymmetric auctions. In an important contribution published in Econometrica in 2013, together with his long-time collaborator Yeon-Koo Che they developed a novel network-flow approach for characterizing interim-allocation rules that can be implemented by ex post allocations. Subsequent important papers of Konrad include his 2019 AER on standard auctions under limited commitment. In that paper, Konard and his co-authors show that if the seller has at least 3 buyers with identically distributed valuations (standard symmetric IPV setting) and as the period length vanishes, it is optimal for the seller to run any efficient auction. This amounts to saying that a seller using auctions cannot do any better than running a first or second price auction without a reserve price. In his more recent work, he studied optimal information design in dynamic settings in which the listener has limited attention (AER, 2019) or it was costly and time consuming to generate information (working paper).
One of his earlier published papers and his last working paper are both on optimal design when agents suffer from some behavioral bias. His most cited paper, was published by JEEA in 2013 and aims to reconcile the use and prevalence of flat rates in many markets (mobile services, internet, amusement parks) which was thus far hard to reconcile with orthodox economic theory. The puzzle is solved by modelling consumers as expectation-based loss averse, an assumption consistent with ample empirical evidence. In such a setting, flat rates are optimal. In his most recent working paper, together with Philip Jehiel, they relax a central (and often unrealistic) assumption of the classical game-theoretic auction paradigm according to which bidders know precisely each other's distribution of valuations. Bidders with misspecified beliefs undo the efficiency and optimality properties of standard auctions. This is an important observation theoretically and for practical auction design.
Konrad is no longer with us but his elegant and important work and legacy will last. We lost a great mind, an invaluable member of our editorial board, and a kind and caring human.
JEEA Editorial Board - Imran Rasul, Pierre Dubois, Paola Giuliano, Guido Lorenzoni, Nicola Pavoni, Giovanni Peri, Vasiliki Skreta and Romain Wacziarg