Dean V. Williamson Biography
I am an economist, and my research interests have become concentrated in the economics of organization. Invoking “economics” amounts to invoking “tradeoffs”. Thus an “economics of organization” illuminates tradeoffs in the design of organizational processes – the processes and mechanisms parties to long-run exchange use for organizing and governing their collaboration. Such tradeoffs inform the design of contracts and of institutional processes more generally.
I was an economist at the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice from late 1998 through 2018. Along the way I did a fellowship at the Harvard Law School and was able to take up some short-term, visiting academic positions in France and in the Netherlands.
My research informed my work at the Antitrust Division, and my work at the Division informed my research.
During my tenure at the Division, I endeavored to put the “civil” and “service” in “Civil Service”. There are a few parallel ways of understanding this. First, I endeavored to make my investigative teams work smarter, not harder. That entailed shepherding cases that weren’t going to go anywhere to a quiet closure and to motivating that smaller number of cases that merited further investigation. Rather than waste creative energies on cases that should be dismissed, we could concentrate our energies on matters that might motivate important enforcement decisions. Moreover, doing a good job of shepherding cases could relieve merging parties or parties subject to non-merger investigations of having to comply with costly processes.
Second, I understood the mission of the “civil service” as applying “equality before the law”. Certain parties (up on Capitol Hill or ensconced in the political leadership, say) might perceive political expediency to engaging enforcement resources in the pursuit of certain popularly unsympathetic entities or to the pursuit of matters amenable to populist interpretations. Such pursuits might satisfy certain members of Congress or secure favorable coverage in the press, but it would amount to arbitrary applications of the law. Arbitrary law is the antithesis of equality before the law.
I had the privilege of working at the Division with a great number of talented people. The American people are not afforded much insight into the work the Division does, but they are lucky to have such talented people on the inside shepherding investigations and motivating important enforcement decisions. But shepherding investigations and motivating enforcement decisions can involve what any collaborative process involves: the prospect of important disagreement. Hence a third aspect of “civil service”: being able to disagree with people and to allowing internal processes to enable the institution to identify a course of action even in the face of disagreement. So long as everyone has confidence that the process has enabled them to develop and advance their views, then it becomes easier for everyone to accept a given enforcement decision.
I would suggest that there is no “civil service” without mature process – process that both enables the institution to determine the course of action even in the face of internal disagreement and affords equal access to outside parties to their government. I would further suggest that the internal process and conflict resolution is mostly what mature processes are about. (On this point, see the opening chapter of my book, The Economics of Adaptation and Long-term Relationships [Elgar 2019]; https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/the-economics-of-adaptation-and-long-term-relationships.)
My efforts to shepherd investigations at the Division really only resulted in two failures. One matter got away from me. (See the third chapter of my book on “Platform Competition, the Apple eBooks Case and the Meaning of Agreement to Fix Prices”.) Another matter I failed to motivate. (The second chapter on “The Single Entity Question in Antitrust: Ownership, Control, and Delegation in Organizations” gives some hints.) My last big matter, however, was a great success. It involved the proposed merger of two firms that maintained facilities for the disposal of “low-level radioactive waste” ( US v. Energy Solutions, 265 F.Supp.3d 415 [D. Del. 2017]). This matter involved an interesting aspect of “working smarter, not harder”. The matter was not amenable to the “comparative static” analysis that more traditionally informs antitrust analysis. Rather, it involved a more forward-looking, dynamic analysis. Basically, one firm endeavored to absorb a new, important rival in anticipation of the bidding on the decommissioning of nuclear facilities to start picking up. Recent history would, therefore, reveal little, if anything, about forthcoming competition, but it is a great credit to the court that it did not get too distracted with the traditional static analysis. The court enjoined the merger. The target firm subsequently ended up merging with an engineering firm that specializes in decommissioning activities. As a result, the country now has two, rather than one, highly-capable, vertically-integrated firms to compete for decommissioning projects. That amounts to an unmitigated enforcement success.
The EnergySolutions matter illuminates an important way in which the traditional tools of comparative static analysis can lead to inappropriate enforcement decisions. A straight-up, traditional analysis would have identified no harm to competition to obtain from the merger. Indeed, the matter illuminated another aspect of “working smarter, not harder”: rather than perfunctorily doing what is expected (the traditional work-up), taking time to think about what is really going on and telling a good story before proceeding to any work-up can make sense.
As of 2019, I have become a free-range economist. I am free to take up the occasional short-term contract or to otherwise work on my own projects. I have a new project on the effects (if any) of “energy efficiency regulations” on firm populations. I will also be off on an antitrust mission to the Ukraine through the second half of 2019.
SELECTED WORKING PAPERS & PUBLICATIONS–
Economics of Adaptation and Long-term Relationships, Edward Elgar (March 2019).
“Economics at the Antitrust Division 2016-2017: Healthcare, Nuclear Waste, and Agriculture,” with various co-authors, Review of Industrial Organization (2017).
“The Financial Structure of Commercial Revolution: Financing Long-distance Trade in Venetian Crete 1300-1400” (2016).
“We Know It When We See It: Platform Competition, the Apple eBooks Case and the Meaning of Agreement to Fix Prices” (2015).
“Knowledge Spillovers and Industrial Policy: Evidence from the Advanced Technology Program and the Department of Defense” (2012).
“Financial Market Contracting,” in Peter Klein and Michael Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (2010).
“Southern ‘Home Cooking’ and the Quality of American State Courts,” with Benito Arruñada and Giorgio Zanarone (2010).
“Antitrust, Innovation, and Uncertain Property Rights: Some Practical Considerations,” Duke Law & Technology Review (2010): https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dltr/vol8/iss1/11/
“Organization, Control and the Single Entity Defense in Antitrust,” Journal of Competition Law & Economics 5 (2009): 723-745.
“Adaptation in Long-term Exchange Relations: Evidence from Electricity Marketing Contracts,” in Michel Ghertman and Claude Menard, eds., Regulation, Deregulation, Reregulation: Institutional Perspectives, Edward Elgar (2009): 289-326.
Review of Antitrust and Global Capitalism, 1930–2004 by Tony A. Freyer, Journal of Economic History (2009).
Review of Commercial Agreements and Social Dynamics in Medieval Genoa by Quentin van Van Doosselaere, Journal of Economic History (2009).
“Incomplete Contracting and the Structure of R&D Joint Venture Contracts,” with Suzanne E. Majewski in Gary D. Libecap, ed., Advances in the Study of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Economic Growth, Volume 15 (2004): 201-228.
“Endogenous Spillovers, Strategic Blocking, and the Design of Contracts in Collaborative R&D: Evidence from NCRA filings of R&D Joint Ventures,“ with Suzanne Majewski. EAG Working Paper 02-1 (2002).
“Markets for Contracts: Experiments Exploring the Compatibility of Games and Markets for Games,” with Charles R. Plott, Economic Theory 16 (2000): 639-660. Reprinted in Cason, Timothy and Charles Noussair, eds., Advances in Experimental Markets. Springer (2002): 159-180.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE –
Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice; Washington, DC.
Research Economist, 1998 - 2018.
Visiting Scholar, Spring 2008.
Harvard Law School; Cambridge, MA.
Victor H. Kramer Fellow, 2007 - 2008
Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble
Professeur Invité, Spring 2002.
Economic Analysis Group, Ltd.; Washington, DC.
Research Associate, Summer 1994.
Institute for Global Economics; Seoul, Korea.
Law & Economics Consulting Group, Inc.; Berkeley, California.
Research Associate, 1991 - 1992.
Economic Planning Board (經濟 企劃院), Republic of Korea; Kwachon-shi, Kyonggi-do, Korea. Editor, 1990 - 1991.
Economic Analysis Group, Ltd.; Washington, DC.
Research Associate, 1989 - 1990.