UNC-CH paid $3.1M for academic fraud probe

Posted November 21, 2014

— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill paid more than $3.1 million to a Washington, D.C., law firm for its outside investigation of academic fraud at the school, according to an invoice.

Meanwhile, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has asked UNC-Chapel Hill officials for more information to determine whether the school is in compliance with several accreditation standards.

Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein released a 131-page report on Oct. 22 that showed academic advisers at UNC-Chapel Hill steered student-athletes for 18 years toward classes that never met and required only a short paper to pass.

UNC President Tom Ross and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carolt Folt hired Wainstein early this year to provide an independent look at the scandal. According to the Oct. 31 invoice, Wainstein put more than 720 hours into the investigation.

Six associates and four paralegals at Wainstein's law firm, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, put a total of 4,184 hours into the investigation, according to the invoice. The bill for their and Wainstein's time came to almost $3 million, and the law firm charged UNC-Chapel Hill another $115,775 for expenses such as copying, postage and travel.

The invoice notes that the law firm provided a $60,000 discount on its services and wrote off another $68,662 in fees.

University spokeswoman Karen Moon said no taxpayer money or tuition revenue was used to pay the legal fees. The bill is being paid with unrestricted earnings from the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation Inc., she said in an email.

Folt called the expense necessary to learn what really happened in the fraud scheme.

"It's not the kind of thing you'd like to spend money on, but I fee what we did with Wainstein, the job that they did was absolutely critical for us to be able to move forward," she said.

Recently, the mood on campus has improved, UNC Student Body President Andrew Powell said.

"Obviously, there are things we are still dealing with," he said. "I think we are confident we are doing the right thing."

UNC-Chapel Hill also has spent more than $2 million on outside public relations firms to handle the school's communications about the fraud scandal. University officials have said the PR costs were paid for with private donations.

SACS put the university on notice when claims of academic impropriety first surfaced in 2011, and SACS president Belle Wheelan said recently that her organization considered Wainstein's report as a new issue.

The organization sent a letter to Folt last week asking for documentation that demonstrates UNC-Chapel Hill is in compliance with 18 standards of accreditation, including institutional integrity, program content, academic support services and control of college athletics.

SACS vice president Cheryl Cardell said in the letter that Wainstein's findings don't jibe with information the university provided to the accrediting organization last year, when officials insisted the fraud was limited to the activities of two people in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

The university has until Jan. 7 to respond to SACS' request.

Folt said she is confident UNC-Chapel Hill will retain its accreditation, adding that the university described in Wainstein's report doesn't reflect the school's current operations.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Steven Nov 24, 2014

    For those of you that continue to think this was confined to one department too (AFAM) are kidding yourselves. Their report had numerous connections elsewhere in the supplemental material but the school decided they didn't want to pay for them to find out.

  • jjackflash Nov 24, 2014

    View quoted thread

    - So please DO tell us, oh wise one... just EXACTLY WHO did mastermind & orchestrate the whole thing? I mean, we've only got multiple investigations reaching the same conclusion - including this last one by Wainstein, where Crowder & Nyang'oro ADMITTED to creating & running it. Yet, YOU are assuredly confidant that THEY ALL GOT IT WRONG,,, and YOU have the answers. Lemme guess? It was a high-level coach? Or was it The Swoff, himself? And surely, YOU have EVIDENCE to PROVE your ridiculous claims? Most assuredly.

  • Objective Scientist Nov 24, 2014

    UNC - like most other large research universities - is always touting the abilities and accomplishments of its outstanding faculty, staff, and administrators. Why then, does the university frequently hire - often at significant if not GREAT expense - "outsiders" to address challenges-solve "problems"? Hiring Wainstein may have been best in this situation, but did it really have to costs THAT much? Heard this morning that one of Wainstein's assistants - based on his billable hours - made $1,000,000.00! For a few months work? UNC indicates no state or tax dollars were spent... that it all came from "private donations"... as if that makes it all "good"? I'm curious... who gave "private money" of this purpose? Also, that is $3.1 million that could have been spent on something less onerous! UNC is always "crying" for additional funding... as if it does not have adequate funding. Yet, the university ALWAYS "finds" money anytime it truly wants/needs to do something! Disingenuousness?

  • Steven Nov 24, 2014

    That 3.1 million is only for this report too. Doesn't include the 2+ million paid to the PR firm trying to manage their image, plus the hush money they paid to Butch Davis, etc. So they are in for well over 5 million and what have they got for it so far?

  • dh1964 Nov 24, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Pretty darn high, even for DC firms. It looks like the average hourly rate was about $600.

  • I Have a Discernible Chin Nov 21, 2014

    watching the game last night i heard a remark that next year unc would have its full compliment of schoarships to give because the penalties would be lifted for the fabricated violations. when will the penalties begin for the real violations. there shouldn't be any scholarships next year or for the next ten years. if the ncaa doesn't punish this then it cannot punish any rules violation again - ever.

  • NCSU84 Nov 21, 2014

    I'm sure UNC thinks spending that amount of money is good to keep those banners still hanging and their coaches (current and past) reputations in tact.

  • veyor Nov 21, 2014

    Nothing will happen.

  • Whiskey4one Nov 21, 2014

    View quoted thread

    3,000,000 / 4,184 hours = ~$717/hr.

  • Steven Nov 21, 2014

    Utterly shameful.