Financial Times article implies Madoff contacted by Kellogg to teach ethics classes, NU denies claim

Sean Lavery

If a notorious, convicted felon is to be trusted, many major business schools are clamoring for him to take a break from his 150-year prison sentence to teach graduate level ethics courses.

In a lengthy interview with the Financial Times Magazine, Bernard L. Madoff, the mastermind behind one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, indicated that several schools, including Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management had reached out to him to collaborate on ethics courses.

The Financial Times article stated: “Several business schools have approached him, he adds, and asked him to work on ethics courses. He likes that idea; Harvard and Northwestern are in his sights.”

The claim prompted strong refutations and confusion from the administration and led one of the journalists who wrote the story to add context to the interaction.

University spokesman Al Cubbage said the claim had no basis in reality.

“There is no truth to it at all,” Cubbage said. “No one from the University or the business school has contacted Mr. Madoff.”

Kellogg spokeswoman Megan Washburn said it was unlikely that a professor or other Kellogg representative would have approached Madoff to seek any sort of relationship.

“There’s certainly nothing I’ve heard of to suggest any communication,” Washburn said. “I’ve been in contact with Dean Blount about this, and there has been nothing to indicate what may have been implicitly communicated in that story.”

Both Cubbage and Washburn noted that the journalists from the Financial Times had not contacted the University to verify the claim before the story was published. Washburn said ambiguous sentence structure left the passage open to interpretation.

“The passage seemed a bit unclear,” Washburn said. “There has been no communication.”

When reached for comment by The Daily, Financial Times journalist David Gelles referred to his comments from “The Today Show” on Monday morning. Gelles further clarified Madoff’s claim on the early morning news program.

“He did say that he had gotten requests from almost all the business schools in the country,” Gelles said. “He said that many of them were interested in collaborating with him on some curriculum. Some of those were ethics courses that he would be interested in working with, and, in particular, he would like to work with Harvard and Northwestern.”

Jim Aisner, a spokesman for Harvard Business School, echoed the statements made by Cubbage and Washburn.

“To the best of our knowledge, there’s absolutely no truth to the claim.”

Aisner reiterated that Harvard never approached Madoff.

Gelles said the denials from school representatives did not surprise him.

“You really have to take everything Mr. Madoff says in the context of the fact that this man is a convicted criminal and a known liar, who’s deceived banks, regulators and investors for decades.”

Madoff was arrested Dec. 11, 2008, and charged with what was deemed by The New York Times as “the largest fraud in Wall Street history.” Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts and was sentenced to the maximum prison term of 150 years. The court-appointed trustee representing victims of Madoff’s investment scheme, Irving H. Picard, estimated that total cash losses in the fraud could be valued at $20 billion.

Washburn found herself at a loss for words about Madoff’s claim.

“Kellogg did not reach out to Madoff about teaching,” Washburn said. “I am not really sure how I can even comment further because there was absolutely no connection. It is really quite strange.”

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