Jury selection and opening statements took place this week for the trial of Moshe Porat, the former dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business who is accused of conspiracy and fraud for his involvement in falsifying the school’s rankings submissions to the U.S. News and World Report from 2014 through 2018.
Porat, 74, along with Isaac Gottlieb, a former statistical science professor and Marjorie O’Neill, a former Fox administrator, were indicted for knowingly misreporting data on Fox’s graduate standardized test scores, undergraduate students’ GPAs, the number of offers to applicants and the amount of students’ debts, which misled Fox applicants, students and donors into believing the school offered highly rated business degree programs, The Temple News reported.
Porat is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud — a federal crime involving any scheme to intentionally deceive a party using electronic communication — and one count of wire fraud. His trial is taking place at the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse, located on 6th Street near Market.
The trial is expected to last three weeks, and could involve testimony from more than 40 witnesses, many of whom are current or former Temple employees, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
On Wednesday, the jury — composed of 12 jurors and three alternates — heard opening statements from the prosecution, represented by assistant U.S. attorney Nancy Potts, and the defense, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The prosecution argued Porat created a culture of intimidation within the Fox administration because he was fixated on the school’s national rankings, including efforts to bully staff into falsifying the school’s rankings submissions, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Porat’s defense argued Porat was scapegoated for the rankings scandal, alleging Temple was obsessed with its rankings and that Porat’s employees, not Porat himself, provided false data for the submissions, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The defense acknowledged Porat’s mistakes in leadership, but blamed the criminal charges on his employees.
The jury also heard testimonies from a Fox administrator, a former Fox student and the editor-in-chief of a publication that reports on business schools.
Christine Kiely, vice dean of graduate and international programs and admissions in Fox, testified she warned Porat in writing in 2010 against falsifying data for the Financial Times about the college’s executive program. She testified that Porat created an environment of “fear and intimidation” and that he was not alarmed about supplying false information to the U.S. News and World Report, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Abe Fetahi, one of the former Fox students suing the school for a breach of contract during their education, testified he chose to enroll at Fox because of its high rankings, and was disappointed when details of Porat’s alleged activity broke in 2018 and the school was dropped from the rankings list, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
John A. Byrne, founder and editor-in-chief of Poets & Quants, was cross-examined by the prosecution, and testified that ranking systems are “flawed” and “statistically meaningless.” However, he acknowledged that higher rankings often increase donors, applicants and enrollment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
If convicted, Porat faces a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison, and Gottlieb and O’Neill each face a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Porat was dean of Fox Business School from 1996 until 2018, and also served as dean of Temple’s School of Sports, Tourism & Hospitality Management from 1998 until 2018. He is still a professor at the university, earning about $300,000 a year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Fox’s online Master of Business Administration program was ranked the best in the nation from 2014 through 2017 as a result of the school’s falsified data submissions, The Temple News reported.
After learning about these falsified data submissions in 2018, U.S. News and World Report stripped Fox of its title and did not include the school’s online Master of Business Administration program in its rankings that year, The Temple News reported.
Temple agreed to pay $700,000 to the U.S. Department of Education in December 2020 to settle claims regarding the misreported data, The Temple News reported.