Statistician John Tukey once said, “The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone’s backyard.” At any given time, my co-workers and I are immersed in the study of different markets ranging from electronic components to chocolate to chemicals to dental supplies.
Since Dr. Jim McClave called me out of retirement in 2009 to work on the Urethanes case, playing in everyone’s backyard has kept my life interesting. The Urethanes case involved intermediate chemicals used in the manufacturing of rigid and flexible foam. Did you know that urethane chemicals are used to make the insulation in your house and the soles of your shoes? Not surprisingly, our team had a lot to learn about methylene diphenyl isocyanate, toluene diisocyanate, and polyols! Say that three times fast. In my second week at the Urethanes trial in Kansas City, it dawned on me that the Infotech family knew more about MDI, TDI, and polyols than we ever thought we would when my 7-year-old son called to tell me that our memory foam mattress was probably made from chemicals involved in our case!
All of this research and teamwork is necessary to assemble a picture that can be applied to a final analysis and assists the team at every step along the way. Whether one of our experts has been asked to estimate damages in a price fixing case or do an economic analysis in a loss of business action, each new case for us starts with learning the intricacies of the relevant industry. While our Data Management team is working with the data produced in discovery, our Case Development team researches basic industry fundamentals — like how the product is actually made and where plants are located — as well as relevant economic factors that might ultimately be reflected in our econometric analysis — what are the costs that the industry players really care about and what impacts demand for the product. We scour discovery documents and public data sources, whether to assist the Data team in understanding the nuances of products, to build a timeline of key economic and industry events, or to compile data and support on price drivers in the industry. There are so many parts of my job that I love and that challenge me … and playing in everyone’s backyard is one of them.