Phillip Zane’s Game Theory: Ten Years On

Ten years ago this spring, Zane published his definitive work on game theory which changed the way law-and-economics scholars and sophisticated prosecutors and defense counsel analyze whether, when, and how corporations and executive management teams should disclose white collar criminal conduct.

Phillip Zane be the only attorney whose colleagues and clients might expect to see an open book on games and strategy on his desk.

Ten years ago this spring, Zane published The Price Fixer’s Dilemma:  Applying Game Theory to the Decision of Whether to Plead Guilty to Antitrust Crimes, 48 Antitrust Bull. 1 (2003), which changed the way law-and-economics scholars and sophisticated prosecutors and defense counsel analyze whether, and when, to settle high-stakes antitrust cases.

Zane’s article strongly suggested that in a number of common situations, pleading guilty (or even seeking the protections of the corporate leniency program) is not always justified.  Zane’s article used a repeated, or iterative, version of the prisoner’s dilemma to demonstrate that pleading guilty was not always the best strategy for antitrust defendants facing criminal prosecution and civil liability in multiple proceedings or jurisdictions.

At the time, a few of the brainier Antitrust Division prosecutors breathed a sigh of relief when the defense bar did not seem to notice and they failed to incorporate Zane’s research into their negotiating strategies.

In 2007, Zane published “An Introduction to Game Theory for Antitrust Lawyers,” which he used in a unit of an antitrust class he taught at George Mason University School of Law. That paper was another milestone on the way to making game theory concepts accessible and useful to the antitrust defense bar.

Zane’s work, which now used game theory to criticize the settlement of the second Microsoft case and the Government’s approach to conscious parallelism, as well as the leniency program, was met with official grumblings within the Antitrust Division.

GeyerGorey LLP was founded on the principle that the chances for achieving the best possible outcome are maximized by having access to multiple, top-notch, cross-disciplinary legal minds that are synced together by an organizational and compensation structure that encourages sharing of ideas and information in client relationships.

As international enforcement agencies sprouted and developed criminal capabilities and as more hybrid matters included prosecutors from US enforcement agency components with sometimes overlapping jurisdictions, such as the Antitrust, Criminal, Civil and Tax Divisions of the Department of Justice, and the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies, particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission, it became apparent that Zane’s game-theoretic approach has application in almost every significant decision we could be called upon to make.  Since Zane has joined us we have been working to factor in the increased risks associated with what we call hybrid conduct (conduct that violates more than a single statute).  Our tools of analysis for identifying risks for violations of competition laws, anti-corruption laws, anti-money-laundering laws, and other prohibitions, include sophisticated game-theoretic techniques, as well as, of course, the noses of former seasoned prosecutors, taking into account, each particular client’s tolerance for risk.

To take one example, an internal investigation might show both possible price fixing and bribery of foreign government officials.  How, given the potential for multiple prosecutions, should decisions to defend or cooperate be assessed?  And how might such decisions trigger interest by the Tax Division, the SEC, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or other regulators.  When should a corporation launch an internal investigation?  When should it make a mandatory disclosure?  What should it disclose and to which agency, in what order?  When should it seek leniency and when should it instead stand silent?  These tools are valuable in the civil context as well:  When should it abandon a proposed merger or instead oppose an enforcement agency’s challenge to a proposed deal?

These are truly the most difficult questions a lawyer advising large corporations is required to address.  We are well positioned to help answer these questions.

Professor Sentenced to 41 Months for Grant Fraud

Although we were unable to locate a press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office in M.D. Pa, a professor charged on January 31, 2012 with grant fraud, received a stiff sentence: 3.5 years in prison and $660,000 restitution.  More than 100 letters were received by the court advocating leniency (including from the professor’s thesis adviser and from a current financial backer of his research).  Despite this and powerful testimony from supporters (including his father), the court meted out what must have been seen by the defendant, his family and supporters as very harsh justice.

PennLive.Com article on sentencing

Original US Attorney’s 1-31-12 Press Release below:

Former Penn State Professor Charged In $3 Million Federal Research Grant Fraud

January 31, 2012

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a felony Information has been filed in United States District Court in Harrisburg against Craig Grimes, age 55, of Raleigh, North Carolina, charging him with wire fraud, false statements, and money laundering. During the time period alleged in the Information, Grimes resided in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, and was a Professor of Material Science and Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.

According to United States Attorney Peter J. Smith, Count I of the Information charges that between June 30, 2006, and February 1, 2011, Grimes defrauded the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) of federal grant monies. The NIH, a component of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, provides funding for medical research through grants.

Grimes, acting through his solely-owned company, SentechBiomed, State College, PA requested a $1,196,359.00 grant from NIH to perform research related to the measurement of gases in a patient’s blood. The measurement of these gases was purported to be relevant to detecting the presence of a disease in infants known as necrotizing enterocolitis.

In the application, Grimes specifically represented to NIH that he would direct approximately $509,274.00 to the Hershey Medical Center to conduct clinical research on adult and infant subjects. The money was never paid. Instead, the grant funds were misappropriated, in part, by Grimes for his own use. The clinical studies/trials were not performed.

Count II of the Information charges Grimes with allegedly making false statements to the United States Department of Energy in connection with a second federal grant. In August 2009, Grimes, while a PSU professor, completed a grant application seeking a $1,908,732.00 grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy(ARPA-E) which was created to foster research and development of energy-related technologies. The ARPA-E grant was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

ARPA-E seeks to avoid funding research already funded by other government and private entities. It requires applicants for grants to disclose other funding sources. In the application Grimes completed and had submitted to ARPA-E, he allegedly stated there was no other funding, when, in fact, he had received a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Count III of the Information charges Grimes with money laundering the proceeds of the fraudulent proceeds he received from the National Institutes of Health.

United States Attorney Smith stated, “Fraud in connection with federally funded university research harms public health and safety and damages our scientific and educational institutions. Such cases will be investigated and prosecuted as vigorously as any other type of serious economic crimes. Anyone with information concerning suspected research fraud should contact the Office of Inspector General for the appropriate federal agency.”

Greg Friedman, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Energy, stated that “The Department of Energy is a major underwriter of energy research in the United States. Cases that impact the integrity of the process are important to us. Abuse of the system is unacceptable. I would like to thank the United States Attorney’s Office and the IG Special Agents who worked tirelessly on this case. This investigation and prosecution demonstrate our commitment to holding those who defraud the Department accountable for their actions.”

“NIH grants billions in taxpayer funds each year to advance vital medical research,” said Nicholas DiGiulio, the Philadelphia Region’s Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Every dollar is precious, so any misappropriation of these funds – as the government charges Mr. Grimes today – will be investigated aggressively.”

If convicted, Grimes faces up to thirty-five years in prison and a fine of $750,000.

Fraud related to U.S. Department of Energy may be reported to: (800) 541-1625.

Fraud related to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including U.S. National Institutes of Health, grants and programs may be reported to: 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).

Fraud related to U.S. National Science Foundation grants and programs may be reported to: 703-292-7100.

The investigation is being conducted by special agents of the Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the IRS. Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Joseph J. Terz.


An Indictment or Information is not evidence of guilt but simply a description of the charge made by the Grand Jury and/or United States Attorney against a defendant. A charged Defendant is presumed innocent until a jury returns a unanimous finding that the United States has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or until the defendant has pled guilty to the charges.