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Game Theory Tips, The Science of Decision-Making, and Lori Loughlin’s Worst-Case Scenarios

The Nationwide College Entrance Exam Cheating Scandal.




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Q. Tell me about Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (HAGT) and the concept of worst-case scenarios?

A. One of the most powerful aspects of HAGT is that it gives us the ability to see worst-case scenarios before they happen.

Let me explain. One of the trending stories on the internet this morning was

“Lori Loughlin Is ‘Terrified’ About Going to Prison amid COVID-19 Pandemic.” Just to give you a bit of background here,  Lori Anne Loughlin (born July 28, 1964) is a very successful American actress and producer. She is best known for her role as Rebecca Donaldson-Katsopolis on the ABC sitcom Full House (1988–1995) and its Netflix sequel Fuller House (2016–2019) and has acted in and produced many other television shows.

On March 12, 2019, Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli were arrested in connection with an alleged nationwide college entrance exam cheating scandal. They were charged with conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud.[3] On May 22, 2020, Loughlin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. On August 21, 2020, she was sentenced to two months in prison and to pay a $150,000 fine.



Now we all make mistakes in life and I take no pleasure in Ms. Loughlin’s situation. I actually wish her well in every way. Still, my good intentions do not erase the reality that every choice that Ms. Loughlin and her husband made seemed to ignore the very idea of game-based thinking and the concept of a worst-case scenario.


In your life, you are likely to be presented with a worst-case scenario (WCS). This is as good a reason as any to explore this idea.  A worst-case scenario is a concept in risk management wherein the planner, strategist, decision-maker, or tactician when planning for potential disasters, considers the most severe possible outcome that can reasonably be projected to occur in a given situation.

Conceiving of worst-case scenarios is a common form of strategic planning, specifically scenario planning, to prepare for and minimize contingencies that could result in accidents, quality problems, or other issues.


In Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (HAGT) this way of thinking is essential to avoiding unnecessary struggle since the worst-case scenario is a way to explore commonly used alternative scenarios that might arise. For instance, a risk-manager may request a low-risk estimate representing a worst-case scenario in to determine the best use of measurable, available resources, and the latitude that can be applied in planning steps to reduce risks.  Generally, a worst-case scenario is agreed upon through the collaborative intelligence within a HAGT Team at the Asklewis Project by concluding that a given worst case is bad enough. However, it is, important to recognize that no worst-case scenario is truly without potentially unexpected surprises, commonly called Black Swan Events.

In other words, a worst-case scenario (WCS) is just a word prison and a biased construct.  A WCS is never the worst case for a number of reasons.

  1. Situations may arise that no game theorist, planner, strategist or tactician could reasonably foresee,
  2. A given worst-case scenario is likely to consider only contingencies expected to arise in connection with a particular disaster, challenge, problem or constraint.


For example; The worst-case scenario devised by a seismologist might be a particularly bad earthquake, and the worst-case scenario devised by a meteorologist might be a particularly bad hurricane, but it is unlikely that either of them will devise a scenario where a particularly bad storm occurs at the same time as a particularly bad earthquake. Of course, this can happen. That’s what the book and movie “The Perfect Storm” a particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors is about – a particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors, many arising simultaneously.


Of course, keep in mind that the definition of a worst-case scenario varies by the field to which it is being applied. For many individuals, a worst-case scenario is one that would result in their own death or in the case of Lori Loughlin, going to jail in the time of a Pandemic.

How did Ms. Loughlin and her husband Giannulli end-up in this WCS? They were among 50 individuals charged by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for fraud- and bribery-related offenses on March 12, 2019, in a nationwide college entrance exam cheating scandal.



The indictment against the couple alleged that, disguised as a donation, they had paid $500,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation so that the admissions committee of University of Southern California (USC) would believe their two daughters would join the women’s rowing team although neither had trained in the sport of rowing nor had plans in doing so. Essentially they lied, manipulated the system illegally, cheated, and assumed they would not get caught. Of course, if they understood the concept of gamer-thinking, Murphy’s Law, the ripple effect, and Bayesian probability they would have understood that in time they would most definitely get caught, or as we like to say in HAGT – “The truth you ignore will come back to bite you on the ass”.  Then, I guess due to some arrogance and poor legal advice they pleaded not guilty rather than just copping a plea as others in the same situation did. Those folks got a much smaller fine and a week or two in the slammer.

Much of Loughlin’s work in recent years has been with the Hallmark Channel an American pay television cable channel whose programming is primarily targeted at families, and features a mix of television movies and miniseries, with positive, motivating, inspiring, and moral messages…Opps. As a result of her bad behavior and legal trouble, the Hallmark Channel,  cut ties with Loughlin on March 14, 2019; and decided to edit out her scenes from season six of When Calls the Heart. On March 16, Netflix dropped her from Fuller House, and technology firm Hewlett-Packard announced it would remove Loughlin and her daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli from its advertising. Loughlin’s daughters were able to remain enrolled at USC, but Olivia Jade Giannulli, a social media influencer on YouTube and Instagram, lost a partnership with cosmetics firm Sephora, as well as sponsorships for her beauty channel and Instagram posts.

Loughlin and her husband were also named as defendants in a private class-action lawsuit brought on by Stanford University graduates, who allege their education and degrees have been devalued due to their school’s association with the case.

Going back to where we were before when speaking about smart strategies in worst-case scenarios. Loughlin and Giannulli were given a soft way out, yet they rejected a plea deal, including for the additional charge of money laundering, requiring both to spend two years in prison; on April 15 she pleaded not guilty.

On September 5, 2019, ET Online reported that there would be a Lifetime‘s movie The College Admissions Scandal.  One of the actresses involved  Mia Kirshner was quoted saying, “This story is about privilege and corruption and it’s about people who don’t follow the rules because they think they’re above rules… My character (based on Loughlin but named “Bethany” in the film) is so corrupt, greedy, narcissistic, self-centered, and the dialogue is hilarious, so I’m glad that they’re able to capture humor about this as well.”

On October 22, 2019, federal prosecutors said Loughlin is facing additional charges in the college admissions cheating scandal. US Attorney Andrew Lelling said Loughlin, is now being charged with conspiring “to commit federal program bribery by bribing employees of the University of Southern California (USC) to facilitate their children’s admission. In exchange for the bribes, employees of the university allegedly designated the defendants’ children as athletic recruits – with little or no regard for their athletic abilities – or as members of other favored admissions categories.”

The Conclusion to this Sad, and an educational tale for all Strategists, Gamer-Psychologists, and Students of Applied Game Theory

On May 22, 2020, Loughlin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and her husband pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud. On August 21, 2020, Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison while her husband was sentenced to five months.

I don’t wish to appear glib here, and I don’t wish Ms. Louglin or her family any harm. I hope this experience is useful in her life journey. Still, if she had hired a game theorist-results-oriented life coach, she likely would have made different choices than the ones she made.

Maybe this story gives us all something to think about.


Below is a Podcast on the same subject matter as this blog

Play button icon to hear the Podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1w7ncOpA1U&t=378s





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