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Ethics probe launched into Harvard overseer whose law firm billed school $42 million

One of Harvard University’s former top officials has been named in two ethics complaints over his law firm billing the school $42 million while he held office.

The Massachusetts Attorney General is looking into whether or not Harvard was right to pay law firm Wilmer Hale the money while partner William Lee was a member of the Board of Overseers and director of the Harvard Corporation, the New York Post reported.

The news outlet reported Thursday “that the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers and the state’s attorney general have been sent formal complaints accusing Lee of ‘possible conflict of interest by trustee/director with pecuniary interest in service provider to Harvard.’”

“Lee, who graduated from Harvard in 1972, served on the university’s board of directors from July 2010 to June 2022, and was senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation from 2014 to 2022.”

The Wilmer Hale law firm was Harvard’s outside counsel during the major affirmative action case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. That case was filed in 2014.

Lee was Harvard’s lead counsel during the trial court phase of the case, until the first verdict in 2019. Harvard ultimately lost that case in the Supreme Court in June 2023.

By then Harvard had already paid Wilmer Hale $27 million and was “on the hook for $15 million more,” Bloomberg reported.

The Post reported that the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers “could neither confirm nor deny whether a complaint against an attorney had been filed.”

“A spokesman for the Massachusetts AG said their office had received the complaint but cannot comment on, confirm, or deny an investigation.”

This past December, Lee was the attorney who prepped Harvard’s then President, Claudine Gay before her appearance in front of the Congressional committee investigating antisemitism, the Post reported.

Gay told the committee that whether advocating genocide for Jews was compatible with Harvard’s speech rules depended on the “context,” comments that ultimately led to her resignation in addition to plagiarism accusations.

MORE: Former Harvard president’s new book denies liberal indoctrination

IMAGE: Jorge Salcedo / Shutterstock

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