Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
Greed, in the end, fails even the greedy ~ Cathryn Lewis
Fifty actors, CEOs, coaches and administrators found themselves tangled up in fraud, bribery and lies last week, accused by federal prosecutors of illegally obtaining admission to elite universities for their children. The parents are rich and connected; their children raised with every advantage that comes with that privilege.
There’s nothing to see here. Cheating, privilege and greed are old news, right? It’s not a surprise that the college admissions system is broken. Nor does it shock us to learn people with money and influential connections bypass the hard work, pressure and stress that regular children go through for college admission.
Money Talks and Cheating Goes to School
The super-rich have always used money and entitlement to buy whatever they want. However, accusations of money laundering, obstruction of justice, racketeering and conspiracy, coupled with famous parents who bought their children’s admission to elite schools caught our attention. Break out the moral compass.
This is different from daddy making million-dollar donations to buy their kids a leg up and a second look at their application. Unfortunately, that’s legal.
In order to get an undeserving child with below-average grades into a prestigious school these parents pushed aside a child who worked hard to legitimately get there. They pushed them using money, lots and lots of money.
Their children were born into privilege. They did not work for what they wanted because their parents handed it to them, even when it came to college admission.
Instead of following the normal admissions process, these parents made the decision to illegally pay anywhere from $100,000 to $6 million to get their kids into school by cheating on SATS, bribing proctors and lying about athletic skills. Not legal.
But wait—there’s more. The parents got tax write-offs for the money because it was laundered through a fake charity.
Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and her husband are in the harshest spotlight, due to their Hollywood fame and the power of social media, but people just as rich and just as guilty are standing behind them. They are not victims of the crime they are the crime.
Name all the names. Prosecutors charged 13 coaches and 33 parents in finance, law and business, including Bill McGlashan, founder of TPG Capital, one of the largest private-equity investment firms in the world. I mention this because TPG was the primary investor in a company where I worked. Interestingly, there are no charges against Huffman’s spouse, actor William H. Macy.
Other parents charged include Gordon Caplan, co-chairman of an international law firm; Jane Buckingham, CEO of a boutique marketing company; Gregory Abbott, founder of a packaging company; and Manuel Henriquez, CEO of a finance company.
The coaches worked at Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. All accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience; even photo shopping them into pictures.
The common denominators here are wealth, position, entitlement and greed, and kids not quite smart enough for the Ivy League.
The Man Behind the Curtain
Rick Singer is the man behind the curtain; the architect of a charity scheme fraudulently designed to get students into targeted Ivy League schools. His scheme was simple—he pandered to wealthy parents who knew their kids had mediocre grades and low SAT scores, promising them admission. He instructed clients to make tax-deductible donations to his charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, referring to his scheme as the “side-door admission process.” He got away with it for twelve years.
Nicknamed the college whisperer, Singer created the sham charity claiming it served disadvantaged schoolchildren and needy Cambodians. In reality, he used it to launder the “charitable contributions” he received to funnel bribes to coaches and university officials who falsified applicants’ skills in various sports.
Charged with fraud, racketeering, and money laundering he agreed to wear a wire and cooperate with the FBI to bring it down. He then began warning his clients, earning himself an obstruction of justice charge.
The hardest hit was USC; half the parents were accused of bribing their children into the school. USC is the only school to have an athletic administrator indicted. Donna Heinel used her position to push 24 unqualified non-athletes through the admissions process in exchange for bribes totaling more than $1.3 million. The school fired her along with water polo coach Jovan Vavic. UCLA fired men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo.
Justice in a Rigged System
In the real world, there are no shortcuts. Parents can’t buy off a system or shortcut a line for children who lack the cred to earn college admission on their own merit.
Just as there should be no special privileges for college admission for the wealthy, neither should there be a special system of justice. Many of the parents are facing jail time. Money laundering, mail-and wire fraud offenses carrying a maximum of 20 years and fines of up to $500,000, yet it is unlikely they will spend time behind bars. Lawyers are already spinning the “loving parents who just wanted their kids to succeed” angle. Singer, the mastermind behind the scheme, is a more likely candidate for an orange jump suit.
Media blowback has been monumental. Names and faces are splattered on the news, in print and on social feeds. Canceled contracts, jobs terminated, endorsements pulled, and careers abruptly ended. Life as they know it is over.
Class action suits and private investigations aside, children who were not complicit are paying for their parent’s greed. Loughlin’s daughters withdrew from USC, claiming vicious bullying. Well…yeah.
Karma always knows where you live; and serves you what you deserve.