Friends In High Places: Who Endorses America's Troubled For-Profit Colleges?

Today Republic Report is releasing a brand-new investigative report: Friends In High Places: Who Endorses America's Troubled For-Profit Colleges? 

Our report describes in detail the network of prominent Americans -- lawyers, lobbyists, board members, university presidents, politicians, celebrities, and others -- who continue to lend their credibility and talents to defending or promoting seven of America's biggest for-profit college companies amid growing indications, including law enforcement investigations, that these companies have engaged in predatory practices that harm students and taxpayers.

You can read and download the report here (pdf).  Or read it at Republic Report.

UPDATE 07-04-16: Friends in High Places is now also an Amazon Kindle book, available for download.

UPDATE: 06-22-16: I have updated this report to provide a more accurate and complete listing of attorney Timothy J. Hatch's representations of for-profit colleges. If you want the updated pdf version, be sure to clear your browser cache before loading it.

Here's the opening passage:

Timothy J. Hatch and Ronald L. Olson are two of the most prominent and successful lawyers in Los Angeles. Hatch is a partner at the national litigation powerhouse firm Gibson Dunn. Olson, a name partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, has represented some of America's biggest corporations. He is a former chair of the American Bar Association's Litigation Section, and today he serves on the boards of directors of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, the RAND Corporation, the Mayo Clinic, and the California Institute of Technology.

Both Hatch and Olson also have been for years key parts of the protective infrastructure that has shielded predatory for-profit colleges, institutions that have deceived and abused U.S. students and taxpayers. Hatch has represented the giant publicly-traded for-profit college businesses Education Management Corporation (EDMC), Kaplan, ITT Tech, Bridgepoint Education, and Apollo/University of Phoenix against charges of fraud, and he has sued the U.S. Department of Education to halt regulations that would hold poorly-performing colleges accountable. Olson is on the board of directors of Graham Holdings Company, which owns Kaplan, and his law firm has represented Corinthian in major fraud litigation -- which is fitting, as the Graham company owned a significant stake in Corinthian until its 2015 collapse. In the fraud case where Olson's firm represented Corinthian, the other party that whistleblowers were suing was Corinthian's auditor, giant accounting firm Ernst & Young. Their lawyer in the case was Timothy Hatch.

Although the notorious Corinthian Colleges is gone (sort of), many bad actors remain in business. Seven of America's ten biggest for-profit college companies, which collectively received about $8 billion dollars in taxpayer money last year, have in recent months and years been under investigation or sued by federal and state law enforcement agencies for deceptive business practices. Despite the mounting evidence that these seven companies -- Apollo/ University of Phoenix, EDMC, ITT Tech, Kaplan, Career Education Corporation, DeVry, and Bridgepoint -- have engaged in predatory behavior against their own students, they continue to market themselves as affordable places to build successful careers, and they continue to enroll new students and deposit their federal grants and loan checks. These companies also have continued to fight reform measures by government to hold bad schools accountable for abuses.

A key reason why such predatory for-profit colleges have been able to continue receiving billions annually in taxpayer dollars while ruining the financial futures of students across the country is that national power players --  politicians, lawyers, academic leaders, celebrities -- have been willing to vouch for these companies, serving as their paid lobbyists, board members, investors, and endorsers. It's not just Donald Trump who has made big money off a deceptive college operation.

Although some well-known Americans have severed their ties to the industry in recent years, the many prominent people who have continued to lend their credibility to one or more of these seven troubled for-profit college companies include: Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, University of Arizona president Ann Weaver Hart, Senator John McCain, publisher Steve Forbes, Democratic former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, former House of Representatives GOP leaders Vin Weber and Deborah Pryce, senior Republican adviser Charlie Black, and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

These pillars of American society uphold a shining edifice protecting corporations that have been in the sustained practice of ripping off students and taxpayers on an enormous scale. The skills and reputations that they lease to predatory for-profit colleges help to deflect attacks and allow abuses to go on, year after year.