Former Temple University Fox School of Business Dean Moshe Porat was indicted on federal conspiracy and fraud charges for submitting false data to boost the school’s national rankings.
In an indictment unsealed on April 16, prosecutors said Porat, 74, of Bala Cynwyd, conspired with Isaac Gottlieb, a statistics professor, and Marjorie O’Neill, a Fox employee, to submit information about the school’s online MBA and part-time MBA degrees to U.S. News & World Report to improve the school’s rankings in that publication’s annual surveys of top OMBA and PMBA programs.
They allegedly agreed to provide false information to U.S. News about the number of Fox’s OMBA and PMBA students who had taken the Graduate Management Admission Test, the average work experience of Fox’s PMBA students and the percentage of Fox students enrolled part-time.
U.S. News ranked Fox’s OMBA program No. 1 in the country from 2015 to 2018 and moved Fox’s PMBA program up its rankings based on the allegedly false information. High rankings on the U.S. News surveys are desirable for colleges and universities attempting to attract potential students and millions of dollars in tuition.
Porat promoted these rankings in marketing materials aimed at donors and potential students, according to the indictment. Enrollment in Fox’s OMBA and PMBA programs grew dramatically in a few short years, which increased tuition revenue by millions of dollars annually.
“The success of the higher education system in the United States relies not only on the academic excellence and rigor of the programs offered, and not only on the aptitude and hard work of the applicants and students, but also on transparency and honesty about the system itself,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said during a press conference.
“Moshe Porat allegedly misrepresented information about Fox’s application and acceptance process, and therefore the student body itself, in order to defraud the rankings system, potential students and donors. His conduct, as alleged, undermines the integrity of the entire academic system and forever hurts the students who worked so hard for admission,” Williams said.
Porat’s defense attorney, Michael A. Schwartz, said his client denies the allegations.
“Dr. Porat dedicated forty years of his life to serving Temple University, first as a faculty member, and ultimately as Dean of the Fox Business School, and he did so with distinction,” Schwartz said in a statement. “He looks forward to defending himself against these charges and to clearing his name.”
Gottlieb and O’Neill were charged separately from Porat with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. All three lost their jobs in 2018 after the school’s misrepresentations were discovered.
Porat worked at Temple for 43 years, including 22 years as dean. He filed a defamation lawsuit in 2019 against the university and its president, Richard Englert, seeking $25 million. Porat claimed Temple shifted the blame to him during the public relations crisis by intentionally omitting information from communications materials.
“The administration took away the job I loved, damaged my health, destroyed my reputation and the legacy of my life’s work I spent decades building,” Porat said at a press conference that year. “Temple leadership did this with a false narrative invented for its expediency in public relations — and to deflect attention from the university’s own role in all of this.”
In an email statement, Ray Betzner, associate vice president of strategic marketing and communications at Temple, said the university was aware of the indictment and could not comment on the substance of the criminal investigation or related charges, except to say that the university will continue to cooperate with the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
“What we can say is that the ongoing discovery process in Porat’s defamation lawsuit against Temple in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has uncovered facts previously unavailable to the university. This new information confirms Temple’s decision to remove Porat as dean of the Fox School of Business in July 2018,” the statement said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the fallout for the exposure of the fraudulent data has cost Temple millions in legal settlements with the Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. The school paid $4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by former students of its online MBA program who claimed the scandal devalued their degrees.
Temple tightened procedures for reporting rankings data across the university in response to the incident. Fox’s PMBA program is now ranked 41st out of 273 schools and the OMBA program ranks 100th out of
Porat received his undergraduate degree and MBA from Tel Aviv University and his doctorate from Temple. He was active in several local Jewish organizations and was listed as a board member of the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce in his Temple bio. In June 2016, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia honored Porat for his campus leadership and advocacy for Israel.
The Inquirer reported that Porat does remain on Temple’s staff. He makes about $316,000 a year, but doesn’t have formal duties.
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