March 29, 2016

State Enforcement Spotlight – Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

This State Enforcement Spotlight features Corinthian Colleges, Inc. On Wednesday, California announced that it has obtained a $1.1 billion judgment against defunct Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (“CCI”) for their predatory and unlawful practices. While CCI filed for bankruptcy in May 2015, this judgment can help secure further relief for struggling students.

In October 2013, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris led the charge against CCI and its subsidiaries that operate Everest, Heald, and Wyotech colleges, filing suit seeking to put an end to abusive practices that left tens of thousands of students under a mountain of debt and useless degrees. CCI filed for bankruptcy in May 2015, and on Wednesday, the Court granted a default judgment against CCI.  In the judgment, the Court ordered restitution on behalf of students in the amount of $820,000,000 and civil penalties totaling $350,025,000, for a total of $1,170,025,000 in monetary relief.

Attorney General Harris’ original complaint alleged that CCI intentionally targeted low-income, vulnerable Californians through deceptive and false advertisements and aggressive marketing campaigns that misrepresented job placement rates and school programs. CCI deployed these advertisements through persistent internet, telemarketing and television ad campaigns. The complaint further alleged that Corinthian executives knowingly misrepresented job placement rates to investors and accrediting agencies, which harmed students, investors and taxpayers.

In the Final Judgment, the Court found that from at least 2009 until the closure of its schools, many of CCI’s representations and advertisements related to job placement were untrue and/or misleading.   In numerous cases, the placement rate data in CCI’s files show that the actual placement rate is lower than the advertised rate.  The placement rates that CCI published were systematically false, misleading, erroneous and/or failed to comply with applicable state and federal regulations and/or accreditor standards.  In addition, many of these published placement rates could not be substantiated using CCI’s own internal placement data and files.

The Court also found that CCI did not offer ultrasound technician programs, x-ray technician programs, radiology technician programs, or dialysis technician programs in California.  Despite this fact, from at least 2010 until the filing of this action, CCI ran millions of ads stating that they did offer those programs.  CCI executives knew that these false ads misled students. Additionally, CCI unlawfully used the official seals of the United States Department of the Army, the United States Department of the Navy, the United States Department of the Air Force, the United States Marine Corps, and the United States Coast Guard.

“For years, Corinthian profited off the backs of poor people – now they have to pay. This judgment sends a clear message: there is a cost to this kind of predatory conduct,” said Attorney General Harris. “My office will continue to do everything in our power to help these vulnerable students obtain all available relief, as they work to achieve their academic and professional goals.”

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