|Born||1966 (age 54–55)|
|🏡 Residence||Greenwich, Connecticut|
|🎓 Alma mater||*Cornell University (B.A., 1988)
|👔 Employer||Willkie Farr & Gallagher (former)|
|*Former co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher
|Board member of||Publicolor|
|Criminal charge||conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud|
|Criminal status||Released on $500,000 bail; pled guilty|
|👩 Spouse(s)||Amy Elizabeth (Treibick) Caplan|
|🏅 Awards||*American Lawyer’s 2018 “Dealmaker of the Year”|
Gordon R. Caplan (born in 1966) is a former business attorney who pled guilty, in May 2019, to criminal felony charges for fraud and bribery related to the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. On October 3, 2019, a federal judge sentenced Caplan to one month in jail.
In March 2019, Caplan was arrested and indicted as a parent participant in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Within 24 hours of his indictment Caplan was placed “on leave” from Willkie Farr & Gallagher where he had been co-chairman, and the firm removed Caplan’s photo and biography from its website. In April, he agreed to plead guilty, and the firm announced that, as a result, he was no longer a partner. In May, he pled guilty to the felony.
Caplan obtained a B.A. from Cornell University, in 1988. He attended Fordham Law School, graduating with a J.D. in 1991. In 1990 Caplan authored a law review note entitled "Post-Petition Trading in Chapter 11 Claims: A Call for Augmentation of Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 3001(e)(2)," 58 Fordham Law Review 1053, in which he argued for a new disclosure requirement to be added to the Rule.
From February 2016, Caplan was co-chairman of the global 700-lawyer law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, from which he was placed on leave in mid-March 2019; since April 2019, he was no longer a partner with the firm. He was a member of the firm's executive committee, and a partner in the firm's private equity practice group and corporate and financial services department. He focused on private equity, billion-dollar deals, and leveraged buy-outs. He represented noted Willkie Farr clients, such as Insight Venture Capital, and represented Hudson’s Bay Company in its $2.9 billion acquisition of Saks Incorporated. Caplan will be automatically disbarred from practice in New York if he is found guilty of a felony. Caplan pled guilty, in May 2019, to the felony charges against him.
College admissions bribery scandal
Caplan was arrested by the FBI at 6:30 am on March 12, 2019, and indicted as an alleged parent participant in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. The U.S. Justice Department relied in part on a number of wiretapped telephone calls in which Caplan was taped secretly. After appearing in Manhattan federal court, he was released on $500,000 bail with strict travel restrictions. Caplan was ordered to appear in Boston federal court on April 3. He pled guilty in May.
Caplan's daughter Rachel Caplan scored 22 (out of a possible 36) on an ACT college admission test practice exam. Prior to the exam, Rachel Caplan feigned a disability in front of a doctor in order to obtain a fake diagnosis and so to receive 100 percent more time on the SAT. It is unknown whether Rachel Caplan knew her score would be increased from a 22 to something close to perfect based on additional fraud beyond the fraud she committed when she faked a disability to get the extra time required for the cheating scam to occur. Caplan discussed with his co-conspirator arranging for his daughter to fraudulently receive credit for a score in the 32 range on the test. Rachel Caplan was permitted to take the test at a test center in West Hollywood, California. There, Caplan's co-conspirator, Harvard alumnus Mark Riddell– who, at that time, was the college admission exam preparation director at IMG Academy and later pled guity –arranged for another co-conspirator, a bribed proctor, to falsely grade the daughter's exam—and correct her wrong answers so that the daughter would be credited with the high score that Caplan had requested.
Caplan paid $75,000 (set up to be tax-deductible, masked as a donation to the foundation of an alleged co-conspirator) in November and December 2018 to have two bribed proctors of the ACT test correct his daughter's incorrect answers after she finished her exam, thereby improving her ACT test results by 10 points as she was applying to university. Caplan said to a co-conspirator, as reflected in a tape of one of his wiretapped calls: "To be honest, I’m not worried about the moral issue here".
The U.S. Department of Justice indicated that the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, with a possible fine of $250,000. Federal prosecutors recommended he receive a sentence at the low end of guidelines that call for eight to 14 months in prison, and be fined $40,000, at his October 3 sentencing for committing the felony.
New York University Law School professor Stephen Gillers opined: “The ... conduct ... can warrant serious discipline. It doesn’t matter that the alleged dishonesty is not in connection with a client matter." He added that disbarment is automatic if the charges leads to a felony conviction. Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School ethics professor, said that in New York, where Caplan is admitted to practice, disbarment occurs when a lawyer pleads guilty to a felony. She said that the only thing that could change this outcome for Caplan would be if he were to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, were acquitted, or if the charges were somehow dropped, all of which she said seem highly unlikely. Caplan said in April 2019 that he takes full responsibility for the charges against him, and in May he pled guilty to felony charges.
As a result of him pleading guilty to a felony he will be automatically disbarred from the State of New York Bar. Federal prosecutors recommended that he receive a sentence at the low end of guidelines that call for eight to 14 months in prison, and that he be fined $40,000.
On October 3, 2019, he was sentenced to one month in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. He served his prison sentence in the Loretto Federal Correctional Institution, and was released on November 22, 2019. After his release he was to be subject to a year of supervised release, and required to complete 250 hours of community service. Caplan was scheduled to be released from prison no later than December 5, 2019, and subsequently awaits a hearing, granted at his request, to argue for “why a final order of censure, suspension or disbarment should not be made”. He is currently suspended by the New York Bar, and faces up to seven years of disbarment from the New York State Bar Association.
- Sean Sweeney, Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Rule 5(c)(3) Affidavit; Gordon Caplan Arrest Warrant 3.11.19t". March 12, 2019.
- "Attorney who paid $75,000 to rig daughter’s ACT exam sentenced to 1 month in admissions scandal"
- Naham, Mat (April 5, 2019). "Gordon Caplan Loses Firm Partnership, Pleads Guilty". Law & Crime. Retrieved 2019-08-25.
- Ormseth, Matthew (May 21, 2019). "Star attorney and Napa Valley vintner plead guilty in college admissions scandal". Los Angeles Times.
- October 3, 2019., Los Angeles Times.
- Kroeker, Jo (2019-04-08). "Law firm cuts ties with Greenwich man caught in college-cheating scandal". The Stamford Advocate. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
- Stanzione, Melissa Heelan (March 12, 2019). "Willkie Farr Co-Chair Charged in College Bribery Scheme". Bloomberg Law.
- "Gordon Caplan, Co-Chairman, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP". Bloomberg.
- Patrick Verel (January 22, 2018). "She Beat the Travel Ban, but Law Alumna Faces New Challenge". Fordham News.
- Michael H. Whitaker (Spring 1994). "Regulating Claims Trading in Chapter 11 Bankruptcies: A Proposal for Mandatory Disclosure", Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy.
- Gordon Caplan (1990). "Post-Petition Trading in Chapter 11 Claims: A Call for Augmentation of Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 3001(e)(2)," 58 Fordham Law Review 1053.
- "California Law Business". Daily Journal. July 1, 2001 – via Google Books.
- Dan Packel (March 14, 2019). "How Significant a Blow Is Gordon Caplan's Leave From Willkie?", New York Law Journal.
- David Owens (March 14, 2019). "Greenwich lawyer indicted in college admissions scandal placed on leave by his New York law firm," Hartford Courant.
- Ronn Blitzer (March 12, 2019). "Big-Time Attorney Implicated in Alleged College Entrance Scam That Spanned the Nation". Law and Crime.
- Barber, C. Ryan; Robson, Nate (March 18, 2019). "Willkie's Caplan Looks to Big Law to Represent Him in College Admissions Case". The American Lawyer.
- Jones, Diana Novak (March 12, 2019). "Willkie Co-Chair Caught On Wiretaps In Admissions Scandal". Law360.
- "Actresses Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin among those charged in admissions bribery case". ABC 22 NOW. March 12, 2019.
- "Greenwich Tennis Competitor's dad Gordon Caplan arrested in Operation Varsity Blues". Teri Buhl. March 13, 2019.
- Taylor, Candace (August 18, 2014). "A Large Hamptons Spread Asks $34.99 Million". Wall Street Journal.
- Ken Kurson (March 14, 2019). "Top Attorney Caught In Varsity Blues Scandal Gave to Calif Dem", California Globe.
- Candace Taylor (October 23, 2014). "A Big Sagaponack Estate Sells Fast", The Wall Street Journal.
- Vivia Chen (March 13, 2019). "Willkie's Gordon Caplan Is Obscure No More," The American Lawyer.
- Marchant, Robert (March 12, 2019). "Greenwich lawyer charged in college-cheating scandal". AP News.
- Roy Strom (March 21, 2019). "Gordon Caplan Set to Appear in Court Alongside Lori Loughlin in College Admissions Case", The American Lawyer.
- Geoff Herbert (March 13, 2019). "College bribery scandal: Cornell alum paid $75K to fix daughter’s test scores", syracuse.com
- Derysh, Igor (March 13, 2019). "Gordon Caplan: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.
- Benjamin Oreskes (March 21, 2019). "Father admits on admissions scandal wiretap: ‘I’m not worried about the moral issue’," Los Angeles Times.
- "Operation Varsity Blues; Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint". www.justice.gov. US Department of Justice. March 11, 2019. Archived from the original on March 12, 2019.
- Owens, David (March 12, 2019). "Former Yale soccer coach and prominent Greenwich lawyer among dozens indicted in sweeping college admissions bribery scandal". Hartford Courant. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
- Strom, Roy (March 13, 2019). "Willkie Co-Chair Gordon Caplan Placed on Leave Amid Admissions Scandal". The American Lawyer. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
- Marchant, Robert (March 14, 2019). "Greenwich lawyer placed on leave after cheating-scandal accusation". GreenwichTime.
- Vivia Chen (March 14, 2019). "Willkie's Gordon Caplan Is Obscure No More!". The Careerist.
- "One month of prison for corporate lawyer in U.S. college admissions scandal". The Mighty 790 KFGO. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
- Fry, Ethan (2019-11-05). "Gordon Caplan reports to prison early". CTInsider.com. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
- Stokes, Samantha (2019-12-27). "Varsity Blues and Bleeped-Out Counsel: Lawyers Behaving Badly in 2019". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
- "Greenwich Attorney In College Admissions Scandal Reports To Prison". Greenwich Daily Voice. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
- Tom McParland (November 7, 2019). "Gordon Caplan Gets Hearing in Bid to Avoid Disbarment Stemming From College-Admissions Scandal", New York Law Journal.
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