What to Know
- Moshe Porat, 74, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, was convicted on charges that he deceived the school's applicants, students, and donors into believing that the school offered top-ranked business degree programs, so that they would pay tuition and make donations to Temple.
- Porat was initially indicted on one count each of conspiracy and wire fraud in April.
- Two other Temple administrators were named in the indictment: Isaac Gottlieb, a statistics professor, and Marjorie O'Neill, who submitted data to magazines that rank college programs.
The former dean of the Fox School of Business at Temple, who was ousted after investigations found the school manipulated data to become the number-one-ranked online MBA program in the country, was found guilty of fraud on Monday.
Moshe Porat, 74, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, was convicted on charges that he deceived the school's applicants, students, and donors into believing that the school offered top-ranked business degree programs, so that they would pay tuition and make donations to Temple.
Porat was initially indicted on one count each of conspiracy and wire fraud in April.
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Two other Temple administrators were named in the indictment: Isaac Gottlieb, a statistics professor, and Marjorie O'Neill, who submitted data to magazines that rank college programs.
Temple's online MBA was ranked the top program in the nation by U.S. News and World Report starting in 2015, the first time online MBA programs were ranked by the magazine. And it stayed number one for three more years -- a lucrative rank used to attract prospective students and win donations to the Fox School of Business.
Fox kept 87% of the revenue generated by its online MBA program, the indictment said.
But that number-one rank was built on faked data, several investigations have since found.
Porat, Gottlieb and O'Neill falsified how many students had taken standardized test scores to get in, faked incoming students’ GPAs, made it appear the college was more selective than it was and lowered how much its graduates owed in loans, according to the indictment.
Those findings were similar to those of other investigations of Fox.
The indictment also said Fox manipulated data in its part-time MBA program, conflating its data with other programs to drive better rankings. That program had climbed from No. 53 in the U.S. News list in 2014 to No. 7 in 2017, the indictment reads.
In 2018, U.S. News called the Fox online MBA data false and stripped the school of its rankings. In the aftermath, Temple had to pay the U.S. Department of Education $700,000. The school also settled a class-action suit brought by affected students and offered $250,000 in scholarships to students enrolling in those programs in coming years.
Temple also asked Porat, who was then dean of the Fox school, to resign. In later court filings, Temple called Porat the "mastermind" of the rankings fraud, The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported.
After learning -- from O'Neill -- that U.S. News didn't audit the data reported by schools, Porat hand-picked a small group of employees to focus on the rankings.
The group included statistics professor Gottleib, who reverse-engineered the magazine's criteria, the indictment claimed. Porat also appointed O'Neill to be the sole person submitting data to the magazine, telling administrators that he didn't want a large group of people to have access to the data.
“He conceived it, controlled it and kept it hidden, only to try later to cover it up,” attorney Carolyn P. Short wrote in court papers quoted by the Inquirer. “M. Moshe Porat bears personal responsibility for the Fox School’s intentional submission of false ranking data.”
Porat said he was scapegoated by Temple, and sued the school for defamation. That suit was placed on hold due to the criminal indictment.
Porat faces a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine.
“Today, a jury reaffirmed that wire fraud is a federal crime even when perpetrated within the system of higher education in the United States,” U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said. “Moshe Porat misrepresented information about Fox’s application and acceptance process, and therefore about the student-body itself, in order to defraud the rankings system, potential students, and donors. This case was certainly unusual, but at its foundation it is just a case of fraud and underlying greed. We respect the jury’s verdict and thank its members for their service.”