I came across this story today and I thought it was quite interesting. For the first time in history, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has stripped former graduate Matthew Martoma of his MBA degree. Yikes!
Some quick Stanford facts: the MBA tuition at Stanford is $185K (highest in the world) and it will keep increasing. As of 2014, Stanford business school is tied with Harvard Business School as the #1 ranked MBA program.
So what happened? Here’s the story in a nutshell – I will do my best to sum it up: Matthew Martoma graduated from Duke University in 1995 where he received a B.S. in Biomedics, Ethics, and Public Policy. He then went on to attend Harvard Law School where he excelled during his first year and a half. So far, so good.
He went home for Christmas and decided to change a few of the B and B+ grades on his transcript to A’s to show his parents so they would be proud of him. (Parents: It’s great to encourage your children and expect the best from them, but never to the point that they feel the need to doctor their transcripts). His parents were happy to see his great grades, but he later admitted the truth to them and proceeded to show them his real transcript. Ok. Great.
Here’s where things get weird: It was time to apply for clerkships (where law students practice law under the guidance of a judge), but he left all of his materials at his house and had already left home. So, according to him, he asked his brother to assemble his materials for him. Apparently he left his fake transcript in plain sight, and the real one in a drawer, and his brother, not knowing a fake one even existed, made copies of the fake one and packaged all of the materials which were sent out to 23 different judges. Upon reviewing his materials, a clerk in one of the judicial offices that Martoma applied to called Harvard to confirm the grades on the transcript (things are ALWAYS confirmed) which obviously led to Harvard finding out that he committed fraud by doctoring his transcripts and sending them out.
At first Martoma blamed it on his brother for sending the wrong transcript, then he said it was all a big joke and he didn’t seriously intend to apply for clerkships, then he proceeded to weave a very tangled web full of lies. For instance, he said that he sent an email on a certain day at a certain time, then when asked to show evidence of this, he said that there must have been an internet problem on that day, so the email message was queued and actually sent the next day, which was next time he turned on his computer and logged into his email. His computer had to be sent to a forensic computer specialist so they could figure out whether he was lying or telling the truth, but it was basically inconclusive. Anyways, Harvard decided to expel him.
A few years later he changed his name from Ajai Thomas to his current name, Matthew Martoma, and applied to Stanford’s business school under false pretenses: he failed to mention that he was kicked out of Harvard for disciplinary reasons. Had he told the truth he would definitely NOT have been admitted to Stanford. Two years later in 2003, Martoma graduated from Stanford and received his MBA. Flash forward eleven years to present day: Stanford has realized the truth and revokes his degree a few days ago. Wait - I left out a big part:
The reason Stanford was even investigating him in the first place was because he was convicted of insider trading charges ($276 million worth) on February 6, 2014 and everything started coming to light, including his name change, his expulsion from Harvard, etc. Stanford sent him a letter asking him for an explanation of his falsified application to their business school, to which he ultimately never responded to, so they decided to revoke his degree. They have made it clear that this has nothing to do with his insider trading charges, and only with the fact that he lied to get accepted into Stanford.
Should Martoma be allowed to keep his degree? After all, even though he was admitted under false pretenses, he did successfully complete the coursework and graduate from the #1 business school in the world. No easy feat. And let’s not forget about the tuition he paid to attend. Will he get a refund? Nope!
Or does he deserve to get his degree revoked? He has committed fraud at Harvard, Stanford, and at his current position. And these are just things that we know of. It's like that saying goes: "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior". Clearly he is extremely unethical, which is ironic because he received a degree in Ethics from Duke and co-founded the Society of Law and Ethics at Harvard! What?! (This could lead to a whole other discussion, but I will save that for another time).
Or is it Stanford’s fault for not doing their due diligence and thoroughly screening all admitted applicants?