The college admissions counsellor at the centre of a $25m bribery scandal twice spoke at events held by Pimco and some of its employees used his “legitimate” services, the California-based investment manager said on Friday.
Pimco — one of the world’s biggest investment groups with $1.7tn under management — said it had invited William “Rick” Singer to speak to staff on two occasions in the past decade but had no formal relationship with the counsellor.
Douglas Hodge, Pimco’s former chief executive, was among the 32 parents charged this week in a sweeping investigation into the payment of bribes to secure children’s admission into US colleges. The criminal complaint said that Mr Hodge, who led Pimco from 2014 to 2016, had “agreed to use bribery to facilitate the admission of two of his children to the University of Southern California as purported athletic recruits”.
The scheme was run by Mr Singer and The Edge College & Career Network, his college test preparation service, based in Newport Beach, California — where Pimco is also headquartered. Mr Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering.
The events at which Mr Singer spoke to Pimco employees were “part of a regular series that includes dozens of outside speakers”, Pimco said. It “invited Mr Singer to speak twice over the past decade, the latest in 2015, about the college admissions process”, according to its statement.
“Like many families in Southern California, some Pimco employees have used Mr Singer’s legitimate college prep services,” it added. “We have no information at this time, however, to indicate Pimco employees acted improperly in their private capacity.”
The company promised to fire anyone who was found to have done anything illegal. “Pimco holds its employees to the highest ethical standards, so any employee found to have engaged in fraud or any illegal activity would have no place at the firm.”
A number of prominent finance industry figures were among the parents charged with using bribes to secure places for their children at elite universities including Georgetown, Stanford and Yale. Gordon Caplan, co-chairman of the law firm Wilkie Farr & Gallagher and William McGlashan of private equity firm TPG were among the accused, which also included businesspeople and television stars.
Mr Singer’s company used two methods to circumvent the admissions process, according to the FBI. It coached students to claim medical disabilities to give them extra time to take entrance tests, and then steered them to test facilities in Houston and Hollywood where it had bribed the staff. And it bribed university sports coaches and administrators to designate applicants as student-athletes, improving their chances of admission.