Catching Up With . . . Raymond Hartman
Crunching the Numbers for a Better World
by Brooke C. Stoddard '69
Ray grew up in Chicago. His father was a lithographer and his mother was born in the United States of parents in the last of the large-wave of immigrants arriving around World War I. Neither went to college. Ray has one sister; he was baptized Catholic, and she Protestant on account of the closest church when the time came. Ray’s family did not own a car, so when it was time for Ray to go to grammar school, the family chose a Catholic school because it had a bus that could pick Ray up.
When high school time came, Ray scored well on an admissions test and entered an all-male selective high school near Wrigley Field. The class was 1500 strong and when Ray discovered his grade average placed him at #8, he, having determined he was actually smarter than the student named as #1, decided to reach for the top. He studied hard. He was in the band, orchestra and gymnastic team. He ended up being the school's valedictorian and class president.
Ray had little idea about college and asked the high school counselor about what he heard called the "Ivy League." The counselor handed him material about Princeton. He was admitted to Stanford, Berkeley, MIT and Princeton. After a Stanford party in Chicago featuring football players and cheerleaders, he leaned toward the California school, but the next day was the Princeton party in Winnetka with guys in sports coats with leather elbow patches – he decided on Old Nassau. He arrived sight unseen.
Thrown into Witherspoon, he met Bud Smith, Dave Gilbert, Al Wenzel, Derek Savage and others who became life-long friends. He rowed freshman crew, joined the marching band and for a brief period the orchestra. (The musical talent and work actually paid off: he sometimes played piano professionally in bars). In his upperclass years at Princeton, Ray was on the intercollegiate karate team.
A major influence at Princeton was Burton Malkiel's introductory macroeconomics course. Ray liked the work, and when Malkiel announced he needed a research assistant, Ray applied. He was accepted and worked with Malkiel for the next three years. This led to dining in the Malkiel home and getting to know other economics department faculty. "Burton was a delight to work with," Ray recalls. He wrote his thesis on the economics of alternative educational systems.
For grad school, Ray chose MIT economics over Yale law school, which had accepted him (he would have been in the same class as the Clintons). A year into the MIT program, though, he wondered if he had made the right choice, this being the early 1970s and politics being pretty stirred up. He took a year off and worked with a consulting firm thinking he would then matriculate at Yale Law, which said it still wanted him. "But I was really liking the consulting work," Ray recalls, “so I went back to MIT for a doctorate in economics.” He finished in 1976, his dissertation centering on consulting work he was doing for the U. S. EPA.
Ray enjoyed the Boston area, so he joined the faculties of both MIT, where he conducted research, and Boston University, where he taught. Soon he was also a visiting professor at Berkeley, where he taught mathematical and statistical methods in the law school to lawyers increasingly using math and data in their litigation and advocacies. He also began to testify in court cases for litigators who wanted his expertise in statistical analysis and its application to economic matters. In the process, there was a barrier of sorts – Ray looked young and attorneys knew juries shied from “experts” who looked too young and were not perceived to possess the necessary “grey-bearded,” experienced gravitas. Nevertheless, Ray could articulate what attorneys wanted and they began to put him “on the stand.”
"All through the 1980s I was teaching on a graduate level and doing academic research. The problem was that although you have to continuously stay on the cutting edge of academic research, you begin to see that much is mere extensions of previous work, tweaks really, and it gets stale" says Ray. "On the other hand, consulting work makes you confront new problems; you have to develop new ways of thinking and new models. I liked that kind of work."
Ray had done some consulting work during his faculty years – concerning antitrust, environment and cost containment issues, the latter for the U. S. Post Office. Late in the 1980s, he helped start a consulting firm with faculty members in the Bay Area.
"Actually, a portion of the business climate there at the time was rather corrosive. Consultants tried to poach the clients of other experts; maligned other consultants; and so forth. Some got rich at it. But I didn't like that kind of operation. So, I decided to try to set up my own consulting firm, with people I knew, liked and could respect.” Accordingly, Ray in Boston founded Greylock McKinnon Associates -- named after two streets in his bi-coastal life, one he lived on in Boston and one in his West Coast neighborhood. He was able to enlist the participations of friends and former students, forming a work environment that was and continues to be congenial.
Some of the consulting involved economic analysis of environmental matters and commodity trading. But shortly a large part of the work was on the side of plaintiff attorneys challenging the tobacco industry – “and once you begin consulting and testifying on one side, you remain there; I was on the side of plaintiffs (the entities allegedly injured by unlawful conduct); I was not displeased to be on this side,” says Ray. He was part of the effort that was attempting to show tobacco companies were making misleading claims about the addictiveness of nicotine. The result was the huge $212 billion settlement by the tobacco companies. Work followed in the pharmaceutical industry, notably concerning whether companies unjustly foreclosed competitors from marketing generic drugs, or in other ways colluding to restrain trade or competition. “Pulling back the curtain on some of these companies is rather unsettling,” says Ray. “They know they are committing unlawful acts. They expect to lose in litigation and settle for large amounts of money as a cost of doing business.”
Over 1990 to the present, Greylock McKinnon grew. There was increasing demand for testimony concerning economics, economic data, price fixing, collusion, and monopolistic behavior, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. Ray points out some interesting developments. “Over the last 30 years, theories – say ones concerning industrial organization and microeconomics – have come closer to being proved true or false. This owes to several things: greater computing power than a generation ago, far more collected and available data, and more sophisticated theories, methods and software for analyzing the data. What economists, lawyers or politicians might have put forward previously as speculations or judgments can be backed up now with more powerful empirical evidence. The methods being used are econometric, where econometrics is the science of applying mathematical and statistical methods to the data describing economic conduct and behavior alleged to be unlawful. While the econometric methods have continued to evolve and increase in power and sophistication, there’s another anomaly: dealing with the judges who hear these cases. Judges by training are accustomed to reading words and making qualitative judgments. They are not used to being presented with data, statistics, charts and so forth – quantitative information about which they have to make judgments – whether true or false, or even admissible in a case. We’ve sort of entered a new era.”
Greylock McKinnon Associates continues to work in these areas and now has offices in Washington, D. C. and Hanover, New Hampshire. Ray has moved into semi-retirement, not actively testifying or being deposed but advising and mentoring the new younger academic affiliates who act as the experts at Greylock McKinnon. Ray has built a post-and-beam home near North Adams, Massachusetts and spends time there improving the property and playing the piano. “It’s been a good ride,” says Ray of the past couple of decades, “just the way you would want the last 20 years of your professional life to go.”