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Briefcase: Universities and Illegal Bribes

Guest: David Kwok


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Many wealthy families make donations to colleges. However several famous parents have been accused of bribing college personnel to get their children admitted. David Kwok, with The University of Houston Law Center, is a criminal law expert and explains what makes some payments illegal.

"Universities recognize that admissions are not purely merit based," Professor Kwok said. "Some acknowledge that they consider a child's legacy status. They offer a preference to applicants whose parents are graduates of the institution, or whose parents support the school through teaching or philanthropy. Nonetheless they draw the line at explicit cash exchange for admissions."

Some of the parents allegedly paid large fees to a third party rather than the college itself and Kwok says the circumstances may affect their liability. "It depends on whether the parents knew what the third party would do with the fees," he said. "If they knew the third party would pass the money along to the school as a bribe. Then they would still be liable for bribery."

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