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BigLaw Co-Chair Indicted in College Admissions Scandal

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 13, 2019 2:00 PM

Gordon Caplan was on the fence: should he pay someone to take the college admission test for his daughter?

He wanted his daughter to succeed, and he could handle the $75,000 fee. But, he told the government witness, it felt "a little weird."

It felt more weird when police arrested him in a $25 million bribery scheme that rocked colleges across the country. For Caplan, it also marked the likely end of his career at one of the nation's premiere law firms.

Bribery Scheme

Until that moment, Caplan was serving as co-chair of Willkie Farr & Gallagher. It is an international law firm with 650 attorneys and staff in six counties.

Caplan was working at the firm's headquarters in New York, where attorneys are automatically disbarred if convicted of a felony. It's a long road to any convictions in the cheating scandal, but it looks really bad.

In a recorded conversation, Caplan listened to the pitch. Pay for a stand-in to take the admission test, and your kid gets into a great school:

Caplan: "I mean this is, to be honest, it feels a little weird. But..."

Witness: "I know it does. I know it does. But when she gets the score and we have choices, you're gonna be saying, okay. I'll take all my kinds, we're gonna do the same thing. (laughing)"

Caplan: "Yeah, I will."

After his arrest, he posted $500,000 bail and went home. Even if Caplan is not convicted, he probably won't be going back to work any time soon.

"There's no way that Willkie's malpractice insurance would allow someone who is under indictment to practice as part of the firm," said Rebecca Roiphe, an ethics professor at New York Law School.

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