This paper concerns with the group zero-norm regularized least squares estimator which, in terms of the variational characterization of the zero-norm, can be obtained from a mathematical program with equilibrium constraints (MPEC). By developing the global exact penalty for the MPEC, this estimator is shown to arise from an exact penalization problem that not only has a favorable bilinear structure but also implies a recipe to deliver equivalent DC estimators such as the SCAD and MCP estimators. We propose a multi-stage convex relaxation approach (GEP-MSCRA) for computing this estimator, and under a restricted strong convexity assumption on the design matrix, establish its theoretical guarantees which include the decreasing of the error bounds for the iterates to the true coefficient vector and the coincidence of the iterates after finite steps with the oracle estimator. Finally, we implement the GEP-MSCRA with the subproblems solved by a semismooth Newton augmented Lagrangian method (ALM) and compare its performance with that of SLEP and MALSAR, the solvers for the weighted $\ell_{2,1}$-norm regularized estimator, on synthetic group sparse regression problems and real multi-task learning problems. Numerical comparison indicates that the GEP-MSCRA has significant advantage in reducing error and achieving better sparsity than the SLEP and the MALSAR do.

## Citation

School of Mathematics, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou

## Article

View GEP-MSCRA for computing the group zero-norm regularized least squares estimator