Case In Point: Lessons for the proactive manager
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Case In Point: Lessons for the proactive manager
Volume 13 Number 07 | July 2021
Quotable .....
“Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain.”

-- Chris Karcher

July happens to be one of my busiest months of the year, so I asked Kristin Roberts of our Compliance and Privacy Division to discuss the topic of conflicts of interest (COI) in this month's Case in Point. Kristin manages our COI program, and the topic is of major importance to all universities today.

Conflicts of Interest and Coordination of Information (COI COI)

Our annual conflict of interest (COI) disclosure period opened this month, so we are fervently reviewing nearly 6,000 disclosures. It is our third year of facilitating university-wide disclosures for all full-time employees. The first year was focused on making the disclosures. The second year was focused on getting management plans in place. This year we really began to think strategically about the information we were getting and how it impacts other units on campus.

For example, faculty are required to complete a form to obtain permission from the Provost's Office to engage in private consulting, which is approved by the faculty member's department head/chair and dean. As faculty disclose outside consulting and professional activity in the COI disclosure, we verify whether the appropriate consulting form has been submitted to the Provost. If it hasn't, we email the respondent with information about the consulting policy and related forms. This process serves both as policy enforcement (making sure the forms are being submitted) and education/training (what policy applies and what faculty must do to comply), further strengthening our compliance program.

Additionally, Sponsored Programs, the office that facilitates grant proposal submissions, needs to verify the principal investigator's potential conflicts prior to submitting the proposal to the sponsoring agency. Providing those officers with the necessary information and/or access to COI disclosures is vital to complying with sponsor regulations. Many federal agencies are placing more onus on the institution, not just the individual, to disclose and manage conflicts of interest related to research and sponsored activities. It is imperative that the right people have the right information to comply with sponsor requirements and reduce institutional liability.

Lastly, increased scrutiny on foreign influence in higher education by the U.S. federal government has prompted a heightened awareness of the issue at colleges and universities. Any COI disclosures involving foreign entities should be vetted by your Research Security Compliance team for collaborations with debarred entities, unauthorized transfers of scientific and technical information, or national security implications. Again, federal agencies expect institutions to be more proactive in this area to help mitigate the threat of foreign influence in U.S. research and development.

As you can see, real or potential conflicts touch many other departments on campus and overlap with other policies, processes, and procedures. Devising a way to streamline these and work collaboratively with other units to disclose and manage COI is an important part of being a proactive manager.

Kristin Roberts, JD, CCEP
Compliance Manager

Kristin has done a great job leading our program here, so if you have questions about our program or the topic in general, feel free to reach out to her at

We again invite you to review the stories across higher education from the month of July with a view toward proactively managing risks and avoiding the headlines. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

M. Kevin Robinson, CIA, CFE
Associate Vice President
Office of Audit, Compliance & Privacy
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Information Security & Technology Events

Jul 19: Data Breach: Today, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and The University of North Carolina Hospitals announced that they are mailing letters to some patients whose information may have been involved in a recent incident. On May 20, 2021, SOM and UNC Hospitals learned that an unauthorized person may have gained access to a single SOM faculty member's email account. This SOM faculty member provides clinical services at UNC Hospitals. SOM and UNC Hospitals secured the impacted email account, began an investigation, and a cyber security firm was engaged to assist in the investigation. (link)

Jul 16: Ransomware: Virginia Tech was the target of two cyberattacks recently, but the university does not believe that data was stolen or taken. Tech was one of over potentially 1,000 businesses affected by a ransomware attack earlier this month that was centered on U.S. information technology firm Kaseya, which provides software tools to IT outsourcing shops. Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said Friday a few university units use Kaseya, a Miami-based company that provides software tools to IT outsourcing shops. He said the malware the hackers pushed out to Kaseya customers could have exposed Virginia Tech student data, but the university found no evidence that happened. (link)

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Fraud & Ethics Related Events

Jul 26: Occupational Fraud: A woman accused of stealing more than $300,000 from the University of California, Los Angeles while working as a fund manager at the school's history department pleaded no contest on Monday, officials announced. In July 2018, officials at the university's history department found that the manager had created fake purchase orders for electronic equipment, prosecutors said. Officials later discovered that she had previously submitted 45 separate fraudulent travel reimbursements between May 2013 and October 2017. All that money, however, went to her personal checking account, prosecutors said. (link)

Jul 22: Illegal Donations: A decade of donations from a Utah man helped Utah State University build a sparkling new concert hall on campus. But the donor was being generous with other people's money, federal and state authorities allege, contending that more than 1,000 victims lost millions to his silver trading enterprise. They're calling it one of the largest Ponzi schemes in Utah history. After a few years of contributions, the man gave a total of $544,806 to that effort that the court's receivers could track came from the alleged Ponzi scheme. (link)

Jul 13: Donation Fraud: The $10-million donation from an anonymous donor was the largest gift in the history of Wyoming Catholic College, and school leaders looked forward to using the funds to expand facilities at the campus in downtown Lander, located in the central part of the state. But as architectural plans were completed, with the goal of starting construction by summer's end, Wyoming Catholic College president Glenn Arbery learned that the school's CFO faced allegations of fraud, and the claim raised questions about the origins and legality of the large donation that had stirred such hopes. (link)

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Compliance/Regulatory & Legal Events

Jul 26: NCAA Settlement: The NCAA has settled a defamation suit filed by former USC football assistant coach Todd McNair, whom it accused of violating ethical conduct rules during its investigation into whether former Trojans star Reggie Bush and his family received improper benefits while playing in college, the sides announced on Monday. The settlement was reached through mediation. The agreement comes more than a decade after McNair sued the NCAA in a California court, alleging NCAA officials "arbitrarily and capriciously decided to ruin [his] career to further their own agenda." He sought damages for libel, slander, breach of contract and negligence. (link)

Jul 20: Title IX Lawsuit: Twelve women sued Liberty University on Tuesday, claiming they were victims of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct and that the university not only failed to help them but made the campus more dangerous through its policies. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York, alleges that the university policies violated the federal Title IX law prohibiting discrimination based on sex at schools that receive federal funding. (link)

Jul 19: Vaccine Mandate Legal Challenge: A federal judge has blocked a challenge to Indiana University's requirement that students get vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus this fall. Indiana University is one of hundreds of colleges mandating COVID-19 vaccinations this year. According to university policy, students and staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they qualify for a medical, religious or ethical exemption, or unless a student is attending a fully online program. Students who qualify for an exemption will need to take extra precautionary measures on campus by wearing masks, taking additional coronavirus tests and either heading home or quarantining in the case of an outbreak. (link)

Jul 16: Equal Pay Settlement: The University of Oregon announced Friday it reached a settlement in a pay equity lawsuit that gained national attention for the past four years. UO has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle the case from recently retired psychology professor Jennifer Freyd. Freyd, who has a doctorate degree in psychology, sued the UO on several discrimination claims (including violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title IX) after discovering in 2014 she made thousands of dollars less than her male colleagues in the same positions. (link)

Jul 12: Wrongful Termination Suit: A former athletic official at Arizona State University has filed a federal civil lawsuit against the school, the athletic director Ray, and the Arizona Board of Regents tied to the school's response to allegations of assault and sexual harassment by a prominent ASU athletics booster. In a federal filing in Arizona District Court, a former senior associate athletic director alleges his termination in December 2019 was "clear retaliation," tied to his insistence that ASU investigate the allegations made by three women against a booster. (link)

Jul 11: Children's Center Safety: University of Colorado Boulder Children's Center was cited for safety hazards, not complying with child-to-staff ratios and other violations after a Colorado Department of Human Services inspection in June, according to state records. The state's findings were echoed in a letter sent by CU Children's Center employees to the campus' human resources department, in which staff members raised concerns about child safety, staffing levels and the quality of education provided to the children in their care. (link)

Jul 09: Wrongful Termination Suit: The former longtime director of UCLA's spirit squad has sued the school's Title IX office, alleging it botched an investigation that led to her termination after spirit squad members attended a Las Vegas burlesque show with a prominent athletics booster. The lawsuit, filed late last month in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of the director, seeks a repeal of the investigative findings that deemed she was responsible for the sexual harassment of several spirit squad members, even though she was not present at the "Absinthe" show at Caesars Palace. She was dismissed in May 2019. (link)

Jul 02: Investment Lawsuit: The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear oral arguments in an ERISA case, Hughes et al. vs. Northwestern University et al, in which participants in two 403(b) plans allege being charged excessive record-keeping fees and high investment option fees. The Supreme Court's decision to review the case was delayed because the justices had asked the Solicitor General's Office for comments -- a common practice. (link)

Jul 01: NCAA Compliance: The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions on Tuesday placed TCU's men's basketball program on three years of probation and issued a five-year show-cause order for a former Horned Frogs assistant coach who was accused of accepting $6,000 during an undercover FBI sting. TCU fired the former assistant in March 2019, after he was accused of meeting with aspiring an business manager and others in a Las Vegas hotel room in July 2017. The federal government alleged that the assistant coach accepted the money to steer TCU players toward the business manager's fledgling sports management business. (link)

Jul 01: Refund Lawsuits Protection Bill: Marking a victory for colleges and universities that shut down campuses last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday shielding the schools from lawsuits seeking refunds for students because of the closures. Campuses closed in March 2020 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with students forced to learn online. During this year's legislative session that ended April 30, Florida lawmakers set out to protect colleges and universities from class-action lawsuits seeking to recoup money for students after the shift to all-virtual instruction. (link)

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Campus Life & Safety Events

Jul 27: Hazing: A second Ohio University fraternity chapter was suspended this week for several code of conduct violations, including two related to hazing. Taylor Tackett, assistant dean of students and director of community standards and student responsibility, sent a notice to the Delta Pi chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity Tuesday morning that its organization had been suspended for four years, according to a university press release.The chapter will be eligible for reinstatement in 2025. (link)

Jul 21:Hate Crime: An Ohio man whom authorities describe as an "incel" was arrested Wednesday and charged in federal court with attempting a hate crime by plotting to kill women in a mass shooting. The Justice Department alleged in a statement that the man, 21, of Hillsboro, Ohio, planned to shoot students at sororities at a university in Ohio. A grand jury indicted the man on charges of attempting to commit a hate crime and unlawful possession of a machine gun, officials said. (link)

Jul 15: Hazing: A week after the state enacted an anti-hazing law in honor of an Ohio University student who died in 2018, the university suspended another fraternity for allegedly violating hazing rules. The Athens-based school sent the fraternity a notice Tuesday that it will be suspended for four years following an investigation by the school that revealed a pattern of student code of conduct violations. The suspension follows Gov. Mike DeWine's signing of a bill into law last week that put in place tougher penalties for hazing at Ohio universities and colleges starting this fall. (link)

Jul 14: Hazing/Team Suspension: A Northern California state university suspended its entire varsity baseball team and put the team's coaching staff on administrative leave Wednesday while it investigates unspecified allegations of misconduct. The University of California, Davis, Office of Compliance and Policy is investigating the allegations, "and the entire baseball program has been placed on suspension pending the outcome of this review," the university's intercollegiate athletics department said in a statement. (link)

Jul 11: Threats/Harassment: Moments after the men charged into his apartment, Caperton Humphrey remembered the baseball bat in his bedroom. If they came at him -- and Humphrey believed he saw the imprint of a pistol in one man's jogging pants -- he needed a plan to fight back. For months, four of these men had been his teammates on the Kansas Jayhawks football team. Now they and about a half-dozen others were in Humphrey's living room, threatening him, his father Jamie, and even Caperton's 15-year-old brother. Seconds later, Jamie Humphrey dialed 911, putting his phone on speaker before setting it on a countertop. (link)

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If you have any suggestions, questions or feedback, please e-mail Kevin Robinson at or Robert Gottesman at We hope you find this information useful and would appreciate hearing your thoughts. Feel free to forward this email to your direct reports, colleagues, employees or others who might find it of value. Back issues of this newsletter are available on our web site.

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