Fallout From College Admissions Scandal: Arrests, Damage Control and a Scramble for Answers – The New York Times


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Fallout From College Admissions Scandal: Arrests, Damage Control and a Scramble for Answers

Gordon Caplan, one of the parents charged in the college admissions bribery scandal, leaving federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday.CreditCreditJulie Jacobson/Associated Press

BOSTON — The morning after 50 people were charged in a sweeping college admissions fraud investigation, the fallout was just beginning.

Colleges where coaches were accused of taking bribes were reeling. Wealthy and well-known parents charged in the case were preparing to surrender to the authorities or were free on bail. And companies were distancing themselves from executives accused of paying for falsified test scores and athletic status for their children.

One of the most prominent parents, the actress Lori Loughlin, surrendered to F.B.I. agents in Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for the agency said. Ms. Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters accepted as recruits for the rowing team at the University of Southern California, even though neither took part in the sport. Mr. Giannulli was arrested on Tuesday and released on $1 million bail.

Ms. Loughlin was scheduled to appear in court at 2 p.m. Hours before, local TV camera crews were lined up on the sidewalk outside the Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles, hoping to get a shot of her. Another parent charged in the case, Stephen Semprevivo, a business executive, was scheduled to appear in court at the same time.

[Fifty people were charged in the widespread scheme to get undeserving students into colleges.]

The central figure in the case, William Singer, a college admissions consultant based in Newport Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges in Boston on Tuesday and was released on bond.

The accusations against Mr. Singer, also known as Rick Singer, pose potential problems for the organizations behind the two most widely used college admissions tests, the S.A.T. and the A.C.T., which most colleges weigh in evaluating prospective students.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Singer bribed test administrators and proctors to tamper with students’ answer sheets, or in some cases to take the whole test in a student’s place, to obtain the scores that were agreed in advance with the parents who paid him.

The conspiracy relied on the parents getting medical documentation that would entitle their children to extra time on the test, an accommodation normally made for students with disabilities. Students who need extra time generally take the test alone, supervised only by a proctor — providing the opportunity for the bribed proctor to rig the outcome. Mr. Singer advised parents on how to get the medical documentation needed to qualify.

According to court filings, in a conversation with one of the parents, Gordon Caplan, Mr. Singer explained that for $4,000 or $5,000, a psychologist he worked with would write a report saying Mr. Caplan’s daughter had disabilities and required special accommodations. He assured Mr. Caplan that many parents did this for their children.

“What happened is, all the wealthy families that figured out that if I get my kid tested and they get extended time, they can do better on the test,” Mr. Singer said in the conversation. “So most of these kids don’t even have issues, but they’re getting time. The playing field is not fair.”

William Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges in Boston on Tuesday and was released on bail. He was accused of masterminding the fraudulent scheme.CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

Mr. Caplan is the co-chairman of the global law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher. The firm said in a statement on Wednesday that it had put Mr. Caplan on a leave of absence and that he would have no further management responsibilities. Reached by phone on Wednesday, Mr. Caplan declined to comment.

One of the other prominent parents caught up in the case, William E. McGlashan Jr., a partner at the private equity firm TPG, was also placed on leave on Tuesday by his company. On Wednesday, he stepped down from the board of STX Entertainment, the film studio that he helped found with the film producer Robert Simonds. The news was shared in an internal memo sent to STX employees and reviewed by The New York Times.

STX is funded in large part by Mr. McGlashan’s firm, TPG. STX said in the internal note that TPG remained committed to the studio, whose movies include the comedy “The Edge of Seventeen.”

Zachary Goldberg, a spokesman for the College Board, which administers the S.A.T., defended the extra-time policy. “The College Board considers all reasonable requests for accommodations — such as large print, Braille, or extended time — needed by students with documented disabilities,” he said.

The board asks for documentation in some cases, Mr. Goldberg said, but in the “vast majority” of cases, the modifications are granted through the schools that students attend, where they are evaluated and given an individualized education program.

Mr. Goldberg said that the people who administer the S.A.T. in schools, including test-center supervisors and proctors, are recruited and assigned by the schools.

“Deliberate misconduct by testing staff is rare and, if it does occur, can result in the staff member or even the school being barred from further testing,” he said.

Mr. Goldberg said that the board had worked with law enforcement on this case, and that the arrests sent a message that “those who facilitate cheating on the S.A.T. — regardless of their income or status — will be held accountable.”

Some of the colleges where coaches were accused of taking bribes, a group that included the University of Southern California, Stanford, Yale, U.C.L.A. and Georgetown, portrayed themselves as victims of the scheme. The coaches who were still employed at the schools when the charges were announced were all either fired or placed on leave.

In a letter sent to the university community on Tuesday, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, wrote: “As the indictment makes clear, the Department of Justice believes that Yale has been the victim of a crime perpetrated by a former coach who no longer works at the university. We do not believe that any member of the Yale administration or staff other than the charged coach knew about the conspiracy. The university has cooperated fully in the investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case moves forward.”

He also suggested that the university might make changes to its admissions process in response to the case. “I will work closely with our athletic director and dean of undergraduate admissions to make any necessary changes to protect the university from the kind of criminal behavior the Department of Justice described today,” he said.


Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to what William Singer was recorded offering Gordon Caplan for $4,000 to $5,000. It was medical documentation to qualify Mr. Caplan’s daughter for special accommodations in taking a college-entrance exam, not a substitute to take the test for her.

Jennifer Medina and Anemona Hartocollis contributed reporting from New York, Katie Benner from Washington and Jill Cowan from Los Angeles.


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