Honest Service Theft and the College Application Fiasco
What Were They Thinking?
Front and center is the sweeping college admission fraud investigations where celebrity arrests have been made as a result of accusations that bribes were given by parents to have their children be accepted for admission to prestigious colleges. Bribes were made for increased test scores, doctoring of athletic achievements, and payments to coaches and/or administrators to secure admission. All point to William Singer, a college “consultant” who has already pled guilty to money laundering, racketeering, and obstruction of justice. Bribes were made as charitable donations to Singer’s charitable organization, and deception and fraud even so far as photoshopping the face of the applicant onto the picture of a true athlete was used to trick admission officers.
Aside from the blatant criminality of it all, tremendous legal issues arise from this fiasco. Applicants are supposed to provide accurate and truthful information on their college applications, and coaches are supposed to adhere to a high moral conduct pursuant to their employment agreements. Both the applicants and the coaches violated their obligations under their respective agreements.
Having practiced in the field of foreclosure defense for the past decade, I have seen a frequent abuse of power by entities that have the ability to utilize their size and influence over those that are less fortunate. It is only on rare occasion that we have been able to expose these abuses through our aggressive representation. Ironically enough I see a rather stark similarity to this entire college admissions scandal. Both the foreclosure scandal involving unscrupulous banking practices and the college admissions scandal demonstrate the excesses that power and size can create in our society. In both situations, we have seen a level of unmitigated gall and temerity that we have rarely seen in our society.
What ever happened to honesty as the best policy?
The core of this scandal is this: theft of honest services. Simply, by allegedly bribing school officials, other applicants were deprived of the use of honest services and denied a fair chance at admission. At a minimum, there were students who may have been qualified for admission but were denied because spots were taken by false pretenses. The true victims are the hardworking students who were passed over by less qualified students whose parents allegedly bribed and deceived the process.
Where do we go from here?
We must try to regain our footing, and somehow build a sense of trust again. Not only with the college process but with each other. Lapses of judgment and breaches of decency and contract may appear overwhelming but we can learn from this terrible incident to be better.
And remember we are here when you need us.
From the trenches,
Roy D. Oppenheim