The legal and public relations costs from UNC-Chapel Hill’s fake-class scandal have climbed well past $10 million, according to billing records released Monday.
The records show the university paid another $2.7 million to the Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft legal firm after it released a report that represents the most comprehensive investigation into the scandal to date. The firm had previously been paid $3.1 million to conduct the investigation.
Much of Cadwalader’s new billings reflect efforts to make public the more than 1.7 million records the firm had obtained to investigate the scandal. UNC released the first batch of those records – more than 200,000 pages – last week. The News & Observer and UNC’s student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, had requested the records.
UNC officials say those public records requests represent the largest in the university’s history. The university’s review of the records before their release led to more misconduct allegations against one of the key players in the scandal, former faculty leader Jan Boxill, who is accused of writing and editing parts of papers for women’s basketball players while working as the team’s academic counselor.
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The billings show Cadwalader hired outside attorneys at a cheaper rate to handle much of the document production. They charged an average of $95 an hour as opposed to the $990 an hour Wainstein charged for his work.
The News & Observer had also asked for the legal bills of two other firms hired to work on the scandal: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Bond, Schoeneck & King.
UNC reported that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has received $1.9 million to respond to three lawsuits filed by former athletes over the fake classes as well as legal work on the review by the commission that accredits the university. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges put UNC on probation in June for failing to comply with several accreditation standards.
UNC has contracted with Bond, Schoeneck & King to handle NCAA matters. Billings released Monday show it has charged UNC $1.3 million since December 2012. Rick White, a UNC spokesman, said he could not confirm whether all of the money was spent responding to the fake classes. UNC is facing five major NCAA violations, including a lack of institutional control, according to a notice of allegations the NCAA sent in May. The case has yet to go to the NCAA’s infractions committee.
Bond hired Jo Potuto, a former chairwoman of the infractions committee and the longtime University of Nebraska faculty athletic representative, as a consultant to review the Wainstein report. A bill from November 2014, shortly after the Wainstein report’s release, shows $6,397.41 spent on “Independent Contractor/Consultant Services and Expenses.” White could not confirm that money was spent on Potuto’s work.
Several months of billings for this year from Bond, totaling roughly $600,000, are not itemized. White could not explain why.
The scandal involves classes within the former Department of African and Afro-American studies from 1993 to 2011 that never met and brought high grades if a paper was turned in. The majority of the classes were created and graded by Deborah Crowder, a clerical employee who was the department’s manager. The rest were created by Julius Nyang’oro, the former department chairman, who admitted in Wainstein’s report that he gave athletes high grades to help keep them eligible.
Edelman, a public relations firm, billed the university $1.7 million for several months of work in 2014. UNC officials had previously reported the firm had a contract for that amount. Some of the money is for unrelated public relations work, UNC officials said, such as helping the university revamp its overall communications strategy.
The university previously spent $940,000 on another investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin (who only charged expenses) and the Baker Tilly consulting firm in 2012, and spent roughly $500,000 on two other public relations firms and a consultant prior to 2014.
UNC officials say none of the money to pay for the legal and public relations bills has come from students’ tuitions or state appropriations. The money typically has come from a UNC foundation that is supported by private donations.