Christmas in Boston…

… as usual for UD. She’ll be in transit today, but should be able to blog this afternoon.

“I know Gabriel has been suffering immensely over the past few years during this whole ordeal,” wrote Georgia Perakis, a professor of operations management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “For someone with Gabriel’s character, all this is already a huge punishment.”

UD loves this shit. A hugely influential, venerated, and privileged MIT professor spends years and years stealing more than a hundred million dollars from clients. He did business with Bernard Madoff.

The Bitrans [this was one of those adorable father/son things] paid themselves as much as $16 million in management fees over the life of the businesses and recovered $12 million of their own investments when the funds were doing poorly, the U.S. said in court filings, adding that the two discussed their scheme in e-mail exchanges.

In addition to defrauding investors, the Bitrans lied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and sought to hide assets by transferring property to a relative without the relative’s permission, prosecutors said.

And a fellow professor gets up during sentencing (three years and nine months) to anguish over his suffering during the long ordeal of running a Ponzi scheme, and to praise his excellent character.

And how does his colleague know firsthand how he’s suffered? Because for all of those “past few years” – in fact, since 2009, long after his Madoff connection and wrongdoing were publicly known – he remained an influential, venerated, and privileged MIT professor. He was even an associate dean. He finally left the school in 2013.

*********************

MIT has said nothing and done nothing in all this time. UD doubts that even now – with Bitran suiting up for prison – MIT will say anything about having for years retained on its faculty a massive fraudster.

Meanwhile, all over MIT websites there are statements like this one:

Deputy Dean Gabriel Bitran discussed [with the Financial Times the importance of] producing leaders with a social conscience.

Like Bernard Madoff’s Yeshiva University, you can direct your IT people to erase all images and mentions of Bitran on the school website. I mean, I’m sure MIT is busy scrubbing scrubbing scrubbing right now.

When you ask yourself why so many people detest professors, think of MIT and the way it protected Gabriel Bitran.

*****************

Oh by the way. How were the thieves caught?

The scheme was uncovered by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission when, while investigating potential victims of the Bernie Madoff fraud, SEC officials asked for documentation to support the Bitrans’ returns claims. The Bitrans then made false statements to the SEC examiners and provided fabricated records.

Here’s a management tip direct from the Sloan School:

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

Wow. If it’d happened here, at least one person would’ve had a gun and killed him.

Pulendrarasa, [a] French national of Srilankan Tamil origin, raised some questions regarding what was done during Chennai floods, at [a] seminar held at [the University of Madras] recently.

He was beaten up by a few professors and staffs of the University.

UD’s fond of… call them cosmic convergences.

For instance, there was the time Sheldon Silver won the William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award. Silver, Bulger, Silver, Bulger … double-barreled … er … Excellence! Two fine gentlemen, the two fine civil servants… and in the case of Bulger an academic servant too! The world’s most incurious university president!

And one of them got a civic leadership award from the other one.

That was a beautiful convergence.

Here’s another one: Green, Milken.

Bernard Madoff’s … associate, Yair Green, is currently being sued by Irving Picard for all that money he got from Bernie and gave to the university that made him chair of its Executive Committee.

Several years ago, Green gave a paper at a conference sponsored by one of America’s most famous financial criminals, Michael Milken.

So Green, Milken… Another great convergence.

Wolves of Pharma at the Door – Way Past the Door – of the American University.

“[Martin] Shkreli has become the Wolf of Pharma Street — he’s basically come to represent everything … bad and wrong with pharma,” Art Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University, said by phone. And while Shkreli may be reviled, said Caplan, “he’s not doing anything in terms of prices that other companies haven’t done.”

This blog, dedicated to universities, has over the year pointed out the ways in which America’s predatory pharmaceuticals industry has compromised our academic institutions. Some of pharma’s corruptions are crude and overt: Med students have been so hounded by pharma (and other health industry) reps – med students, right? not even docs yet, but people who will at some distant point be docs – that to defend themselves their organization (the American Medical Student Association) established its now well-known Conflict of Interest Scorecard (UD‘s own George Washington University languishes near the bottom), which ranks such delicacies as GIFTS, MEALS, and of course GHOSTWRITING (a category all its own here at University Diaries).

Several of the best-compensated professors at American med schools are walking around with the names of the very dirtiest companies (GlaxoSmithKline Distinguished Professorship). Quite a few professors are themselves little more than pharma shills, given the riches they’ve accepted from the industry. Because of pharma, academic experimental protocols and published results are often tainted; because of pharma, research subjects may be treated unethically. Because of pharma, the fifteen-million page Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (At Least One Billable Diagnosis For Every American!) has become a joke.

Some of pharma’s academic depredations are more covert. For instance, on the board of trustees of the University of Chicago sits Gilead’s John Martin, a far more powerful and destructive icon of greed than measly little Shkreli.

Your Blogeuse Now Also Featured in…

Newsweek.

To save you time:

Margaret Soltan, a George Washington University professor who gave Hunter $75 through Crowdrise on Friday, said schools should stand up to people who behave badly by returning their money. She is not connected to Hunter but blogs on education topics.

Keeping the money “just makes you look cynical. It makes you look mercenary and immoral,” Soltan said.

Your Blogeuse Featured in Reuters.

I was interviewed this morning about the Shkreli donation to Hunter College High School.

Here’s the article in which I’m quoted.

La Kid, Office …

… holiday party…

12374859_3730212933587_8696689951201313689_o

…Bobby Van’s Steakhouse.

Quotation of the Day.

Tenure is not immunity… [Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist James Tracy’s] harassment of the parents of murdered children was vulgar, repulsive and an insult to the academic profession. Faculty concerned about the status of tenure should, in fact, be relieved that [Florida Atlantic University] began termination procedures… While there are real reasons to protect tenure for academic research, Tracy’s ‘scholarship’ makes a mockery of what academics do. His termination both holds Tracy accountable for his despicable behavior and reduces pressure on elected officials to end tenure.

Give, so that others may afford their medicine.

This fall, [Katie] Uva started an online fund-raising campaign to match a $1 million donation from Mr. Shkreli to Hunter in the hope of persuading the school to return the donation. So far, the campaign has raised about $800 from 16 donors.

Back in whenever, UD noted the embarrassing one million dollar donation Martin Shkreli gave his high school, a place affiliated with Hunter College. She asked then if anyone would do anything about it – like return it, or keep it and direct it to anti-Shkreli uses.

The school said and did nothing.

But with Shkreli’s arrest, things are hotting up a bit on that front. The New York Times today features a student (again, note that the moral courage here comes from a student, not the school) who has launched an anti-Shkreli fund-raising campaign.

Giving to that campaign seems to UD an easy and efficient way of responding to the tendency of this country to nurture monsters.

Next up in the Shkreli case…

…his noble defense lawyer.

Baruch Weiss’s “purpose in life is to undo injustice … [T]here is something almost superhuman” about [his] drive to do the right thing.”

Weiss worked unceasingly for another persecuted martyr, Sholom Rubashkin, and UD feels sure he will offer the same moral indignation at injustice to Martin Shkreli.

Return to …

Spender.

Here’s That Rainy Day

Maybe
I fucked up on
Those leftover debts
Funny
But here’s that rainy day

Here’s that rainy day
They told me about
And I laughed at the thought
That it might turn out this way

Where is that Ponzi scheme
That I used to love
After it brought their cash so near

Funny how fraud becomes
A cold rainy day
Funny
That rainy day is here

The beauty of hedge fund capitalism…

… is that if any particular hedgie pisses you off, for any reason at all, you stand a fair chance of nailing him on securities fraud. That’s why if you’re a hedgie you should keep your head down and not piss too many people off the way Martin Shkreli did with that price hike on that drug. Because all the annoyed SEC had to do was run its eyes lightly over his financial past in order to arrest him, just now, at his New York digs.

******************

It wouldn’t be University Diaries without anagrams. Try your hand. Here are my first attempts. I imagine it as an abbreviated conversation between an onlooker and Shkreli as he’s loaded into the police van.

[M A R T I N S H K R E L I]


HI MISTER! LARKN’?

“I LIKEST HARRMIN’ … TRASH ‘N MILK ‘ER …”

M SHRIEK’N ‘TRIAL’

“MA! TELL R SHRINK!”

“There is a sense that the university is reeling.”

UD hasn’t encountered many totally corrupt American universities. We’re not like Italy and Greece, where one can find schools whose main function is to transfer all available funds to the institution’s leadership. The closest we’ve come is the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and even there they’ve had to shutter much of their shake-down operation after endless unpleasantness with the FBI. (I’m of course talking here only about legitimate universities. The for-profit tax syphons are almost entirely about transfer of all possible funds to management and investors. Whole other category.)

But the University of Louisville, some of whose students and faculty, as a local reporter notes, are “reeling” from one financial or sexual scandal after another, is emerging as America’s new UMDNJ. And it might be instructive to pause at its latest scandal – high-level med school resignations in the wake of an FBI investigation into allegations that (in the words of the only worthwhile UL trustee – a man who subsequently left the board in disgust) a university vice president “owns a piece of a company getting paid by a part of the university that he controls.” It’s alleged that he and several of his UL cronies have essentially stolen around eight million dollars from the university.

No bid contracts and bogus high-paying jobs to friends and family also seem to be part of this particular scandal. But that’s the typical threesome at corrupt schools, where no one’s around to stop you from total corruption:

1. conflict of interest for personal enrichment;
2. no bid contracts to cronies (these often feature kickbacks to you);
3. the creation of pretend jobs for cronies and relatives.

At schools like UL, you don’t do just one or two of these things; you do them all.

How does a school become systemically rotten in the way UL is systemically rotten? How did things get so out of control in virtually all areas of the school’s operation? (I’m not even going to talk about UL athletics, which has been a sewer for years.)

If you ask UD, this can only happen when absolute ignorance of – maybe even contempt for – the nature of a university prevails not only in parts of the local culture (that y’all and shut ma mouth land) but in the president’s office and on the board of trustees. UMDNJ was run by brainless Jersey wise guys; UL seems to be run by corporate backslappers. Even now, with the school in absolute tatters, UL has chosen as its spokesperson a look on the sunny side nitwit who attacks the press for its negativism, denies anything’s the matter, and says stuff that’s too stupid to parse:

“I’m not willing to cross that bridge and give you any information that’s going to appease your accusations.”

***************************

A school run – flamboyantly run – largely to make money for the people who lead it will attract unsavory people. Unsavory people want to work at places like UL, since it seems unlikely that anyone at the institution will impede their corrupt activities. This is the way that corrupt schools stay corrupt, and indeed tend to become more corrupt. They attract corrupt people.

UD predicts that UL will, under this extraordinary pressure, finally ditch its president, who has lost all vestige of institutional control. But getting rid of him will cost the school many millions of dollars, and the chance of replacing him with anyone better is small.

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