TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, August 28, 2017

Former Charlotte Law Prof's Whistleblower Lawsuit Claims School Bilked $285 Million From Taxpayers

Charlotte Logo (2016)Following up on my previous post, Charlotte Law School Closes 'Effective Immediately':  Charlotte Observer, Charlotte School of Law Bilked $285 Million From Taxpayers, Former Faculty Member Says:

A lawsuit filed by a former professor of Charlotte School of Law accuses the failed school and its corporate owner of defrauding taxpayers out of $285 million by admitting hundreds of unqualified students, then manipulating records to keep them enrolled so the school could collect their government-backed tuition.

Barbara Bernier says the for-profit school, which closed last week, conspired with its owner, the InfiLaw System, to inflate enrollment and maximize profits. She says Charlotte Law lowered admissions and retention standards while misrepresenting both the state bar exam scores of their graduates and their success in finding jobs, according to a 2016 complaint that became public for the first time this month.

“The goal of the school has never been focused on education,” said Coleman Watson, Bernier’s Orlando, Fla.-based attorney. “The shareholder tended to be more important than the student body, and that’s why she came forward.”

Contacted by the Observer, Charlotte Law spokeswoman Victoria Taylor issued a statement that the school “will defend itself vigorously against the allegations in the complaint. Beyond that, we do not intend to comment on pending litigation.” ...

Bernier’s whistle-blower lawsuit, which had been sealed at government request in the Florida federal courts, offers new details of what she describes as a culture that favored cash flow over academics, fueling Charlotte Law’s startling growth and its equally rapid collapse. And, she singles out school president Chidi Ogene and former dean Jay Conison with conspiring to defraud the government.

Her filing describes a school that pledged to “establish a benchmark of inclusive excellence” and produce “practice-ready” graduates. Instead, she says, 90 percent of students at InfiLaw’s three for-profit campuses have amassed a quarter of a million dollars in loan debt, with few landing the high-paying jobs necessary to repay the money.

Bernier filed her complaint in June 2016 under the False Claim Act in behalf of the federal government. As part of the lawsuit, Bernier asks that she receive a percentage of any damages awarded. ... Over a six-year period beginning in 2010, Bernier says 1,355 substandard students were enrolled, which she says led to $285 million in improper government payments to the school. Watson said the estimate is based on public documents and statistics between 2010 and 2015.

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[UN runs to make popcorn]

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 28, 2017 2:32:02 PM

Quiet tam?

Posted by: &(+# | Aug 28, 2017 5:19:50 PM

Qui tam? Stupid auto correct...

Posted by: &(+# | Aug 28, 2017 5:20:13 PM