Harvard Law Students Are The Best — At Making Up Fake Transcripts

on January 13, 2014 at 4:21 PM

It’s Harvard Law School’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.

1999ARLO DEVLIN-BROWN writes that you never know where you’ll run into a classmate. He is prosecuting MATHEW MARTOMA (née Ajay Mathew Thomas) on insider trading charges in Lower Manhattan. Devlin-Brown has asked U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe (unfortunately Penn ’79, Columbia ’82) for permission to talk about Matt’s expulsion from Harvard for doctoring his transcript, so get ready for fireworks! The trial is expected to last several weeks, so for anyone who missed WILLIAM PULLMAN and Lisa Frank’s (Yale ’03, NYU Law ’08, NYU Stern ’08) Christmas Eve nuptials, it would be a great opportunity for a mini-reunion!

That is Bess Levin’s imagined entry for the next edition of Harvard Law School alumni news, offered over at our sister site Dealbreaker. It’s based on a New York Times piece marveling at the many HLS folks involved in this major insider trading trial (which also include Martoma’s lawyer, Richard Strassberg of Goodwin Procter, and Lorin Reisner, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office).

A takeaway from the Martoma matter: HLS students are the best! At forgery and fraud, that is.

Years before he allegedly cheated on Wall Street, Mathew Martoma, then known as “Ajay Mathew Thomas,” cheated at Harvard Law School by fabricating his transcript when applying for clerkships. It was a sophisticated effort that fooled multiple jurists. Which D.C. Circuit judges came thisclose to hiring him as a law clerk?


The gory details appear in the government’s motion in limine, which seeks to admit evidence about Martoma’s faking of his HLS grades under this theory:

The prosecution argues in court papers that Mr. Martoma’s deception is relevant to show that he has the technical knowledge to alter computer files. That could be relevant, prosecutors say, if Mr. Martoma’s lawyers seek to argue he never received a copy of a confidential report that discussed problems with a clinical trial for an experimental Alzheimer’s drug being developed by Elan and Wyeth [the companies whose stock Martoma allegedly traded based on inside information].

And here is what Mathew Martoma — known back then as Ajay Mathew Thomas, before he changed his name — reportedly did while at HLS, according to Harvard’s Administrative Board (which handles disciplinary matters for the university):

One B+, one A-, and four As — those are some very strong grades (back when HLS had a standard A-based grading system). No wonder Martoma scored interviews with three members of the Most Holy D.C. Circuit — Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, Judge A. Raymond Randolph, and Judge David B. Sentelle — as well as an offer that Martoma ended up not accepting. (I wonder which judge made the offer.)

Why didn’t Martoma end up taking the offer? It seems that his self-inflated grades got discovered by that point, as set forth in the Ad Board findings:

I do wonder how the clerk detected that Martoma’s transcript was off. Was there an inconsistency between a grade and a recommendation? Should Martoma have gotten a Sears Prize with such grades, making his not having such a prize — the names are publicly announced — suspicious? (I don’t know if one B+ back then would have killed Sears Prize chances; HLS tipsters, feel free to enlighten me.)

The rest, as they say, is history. Martoma got busted for what Bess Levin rightly calls his “dazzling array of lies,” unsuccessfully tried to defend himself before the Ad Board, and got expelled from Harvard Law School.

Our hero then changed his name (from “Ajay Mathew Thomas” to “Mathew Martoma”), graduated from Stanford Business School (presumably omitting his HLS expulsion from his application), and wound up at SAC Capital, Steve Cohen’s super-successful — but super-indicted — hedge fund. While at SAC Capital, Martoma earned a $9 million bonus, in connection with the Elan/Wyeth trades he’s now on trial for.

A guy who can’t graduate from Harvard Law winds up making a $9 million bonus while still in his thirties. This is why lawyers, even HLS grads, feel envy towards Wall Street people.

Until those same HLS grads, like prosecutor (and college debate star) Arlo Devlin-Brown, send those Wall Street people to prison. Revenge of the nerds, indeed.

Originally published on Breaking Gov’s sister site Above The Law


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