It would seem the legal system has been effective in investigating these crimes and bringing charges, but I think the proposed punishments, jail time, fines and community service, miss an opportunity to do something much more creative that would have a more substantial impact and deter this type of behavior in the future. Given the skills and talents of the defendants, it would seem there is a great opportunity to task them with figuring out, for example, how to deter this type of behavior in others.
Take, for example, Gordon Caplan, the former co chair of Wilkie Farr. Caplan is an accomplished lawyer who paid $75,000 to have his daughter’s standardized test scores fraudulently inflated. He pled guilty to that crime and now faces 8-14 months in prison and a $40,000 fine. He has lost his job and presumably will be disbarred for committing fraud. In public statements he is contrite, and certainly he must be working through some very difficult family issues. For some his story may be enough of a cautionary tale that it will deter them from committing a similar fraud. However I cannot help but think that rather than put Caplan in jail for 8-14 months, he should have been tasked with developing ways to deter and prevent others from developing similar schemes, or participating in them. As a lawyer and deal maker, Caplan has the right training to analyze the scheme, and as a participant he has a valuable perspective that the prosecutors lack. Caplan will be punished by jail time, but it seems unlikely that anyone will benefit from him sitting in prison. Why not have the punishment result in a benefit to society? If Caplan and others were tasked with devising ways to prevent future crimes, that could really benefit society.
Huffman and Loughlin are uniquely positioned to tell the story as actors. They have the platform and the talent to communicate to a large audience that might not be interested in reading articles in the paper about this scandal. They could literally dramatize the pressures that led them to make the choices they did. Doing so would serve not only to pay penance, but could also prevent future crimes.
This spring my oldest daughter is graduating from high school. As the Varsity Blues scandal broke, her classmates were receiving letters of acceptance, and rejection. Every year some students are elated, and others are heart broken, but this year the Varsity Blues scandal cast a shadow over all the results. These students weren’t just wondering if the system was rigged, they know it has been, and probably still is. These students are the real victims of this fraudulent scheme. I would like to see the participants in this crime, who are wealthy and accomplished, take responsibility for their actions not just by paying fines (which are laughably small for this wealthy group) or serving jail time, but by applying their skills to projects that will effectively deter others from participating in fraudulent schemes. As lawyers, financiers and actors, this is a group of parents who have the ability to encourage other parents to do better, and to make sure that future generations of high schoolers can feel less cynical about the college process.