A former top official in the University’s investment office filed a lawsuit this month claiming GW fired her for trying to blow the whistle on allegedly flawed financial reporting.
Carol Ann Lindsey, who served six years as the director of operations and investment risk management, said the University retaliated against her after she contacted an outside accounting ethics board. She had accused investment officers of misreporting performance ratings to inflate endowment growth in its 2013 investment report.
Lindsey alleged that she had been wrongfully fired for raising concerns with the University’s chief investment officer and managing director. She was fired about two weeks after contacting an investment accountability agency about the errors, and called the termination “willful, malicious and oppressive.”
When Baker Tilly, the University’s auditing firm, contacted her to speak “immediately” as part of an internal investigation into the alleged misreporting, Lindsey told the company that she was hiring a lawyer and asked for questions in writing.
Later that day, GW’s Human Resources told Lindsey she “was banned from GW and was not to come to work,” according to the lawsuit.
Demanding more information about the sudden termination, Lindsey allegedly was told by GW’s senior counsel that she was fired for contacting the CFA Institute without consulting Chief Investment Officer Donald Lindsey or other GW officials.
But in the lawsuit, Carol Ann Lindsey argues that she did warn the University’s CIO, as well as managing director Narges Zamani, who both “failed to appropriately escalate the matter within the University.”
Carol Ann Lindsey and University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard both declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.
She is suing for about $360,000 in paid vacation time and other compensatory damages, according to documents. Her annual salary at that time was about $180,000.
D.C. Superior Court has scheduled an initial conference for Jan. 10.
The lawsuit marks the second time in the fall semester that former top University officials were fired after they retained legal counsel and said their concerns were not adequately addressed by top administrators or the Office of General Counsel.
Former business school dean Doug Guthrie claimed he was fired in August after he hired a lawyer to protect himself from a year-long smear campaign led by the University’s top faculty leader. He said he had repeatedly reported slanderous comments, but administrators told The Hatchet that an internal investigation found no evidence of who led the defamation campaign.
Carol Ann Lindsey said she reported her finding of inaccurate data to her supervisors, which measured the year-to-year performance of the pieces that make up the University’s endowment, which is also called the internal rate of return.
Instead of recording the 2013 data, GW included the previous year’s rate, which Carol Ann Lindsey said slightly swelled the endowment’s efficiency performance.
She said scores were inflated for 29 out of 33 endowment managers, who each oversee a piece of the $1.37 billion endowment, which is used to fund academics, financial aid and construction projects.
Carol Ann Lindsey reported the errors to her supervisor, Zamani, on June 6, according to emails. Zamani, who had compiled the reports, replied that “she would not redistribute the report,” and would instead address it at the next meeting of GW’s Investment Committee.
But neither Zamani nor Donald Lindsey, who was copied on the email exchange, brought up the issues at the committee’s June 10 meeting. Zamani and Donald Lindsey, who is not related to the plaintiff, also did not distribute a revised copy of the report, according to the documents.
Four days later, Carol Ann Lindsey contacted the disciplinary arm of the CFA Institute to ask if her supervisors had violated the organization’s ethical code, which applies to investment managers, like GW’s, who belong to the group.
Carol Ann Lindsey also claims that she had previously “questioned Mr. Lindsey’s ethics,” pointing to his private consulting services as a conflict of interest.
She said after confronting him about his monthly trips to the Bahamas for the private consulting, he announced that he would end his outside consulting services.
– Sarah Ferris contributed to this report