March 16th, 2010 | News, University

Yale sued over donation

The Skinner House at 46 Hillhouse Ave. was supposed to be named by a $4 million donation from BearingPoint Inc. Now that the company has filed for bankruptcy, it is suing the University to get the money back.
The Skinner House at 46 Hillhouse Ave. was supposed to be named by a $4 million donation from BearingPoint Inc. Now that the company has filed for bankruptcy, it is suing the University to get the money back. Photo by Alison Griswold.

Updated: 11:07 p.m. When BearingPoint Inc. was still one of the world’s largest and most successful business consulting firms, the company pledged to give $30 million to Yale’s School of Management to endow a professorship, name buildings and sponsor an employee education program. Now that BearingPoint has filed for bankruptcy, it is suing Yale to recover the $8.1 million it paid the University before filing for Chapter 11 in February 2009.

BearingPoint gave the University $2.1 million between December 2008 and February 2009 as part of an education collaboration agreement, as well as $6 million in 2007 and 2008 for naming rights at SOM — all of which the company needs back as it attempts to climb out of bankruptcy, according to documents filed in bankruptcy court Friday by BearingPoint’s government-appointed bankruptcy trustee, John DeGroote Services.

The naming opportunities did not generate any business for BearingPoint, the trustee said in the filing.

“No material consideration flowed to BearingPoint, and no benefit to its business or assets was derived from the endowing of chairs or the naming of buildings at Yale,” the trustee said.

In a statement provided by SOM spokeswoman Tabitha Wilde, the University said it has honored both of the two agreements with BearingPoint — endowing a professorship within the SOM and starting an educational collaboration arrangement between BearingPoint and the SOM — and has relied on BearingPoint upholding its end of the contract.

SOM Dean Sharon Oster declined to comment.

After University President Richard Levin and then-BearingPoint CEO Harry You GRD ’83 agreed to the donation in November 2006, Yale used the first $2 million BearingPoint gave to endow SOM’s BearingPoint Professorship of Management — a chair now held by psychologist Victor Vroom. Another $4 million was the first part of a larger donation meant to name the SOM building at 46 Hillhouse Ave. as well as an auditorium and a wing of the new SOM campus. The latest $2.1 million chunk paid for leadership workshops and other business training sessions held at Yale last year.

Under U.S. bankruptcy law, creditors can seek to regain some of what companies pay out in the two years before they file for bankruptcy. Since BearingPoint began giving its millions to Yale in 2007, the firm’s bankruptcy trustee can try to get back some of the donated funds to help pay off the company’s $2.2 billion debt.