Antitrust case against universities draws heavyweight defenders

3 minute read

A student walks on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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  • Lawyers from Skadden; Freshfields; Mayer Brown and other major firms represent schools
  • Judge set April 15 deadline for a motion to dismiss
  • Schools accused of price-fixing scheme that overcharged financial-aid recipients

(Reuters) - Nearly 20 major law firms are preparing to coordinate their defenses as they contest an antitrust lawsuit in Illinois federal court alleging a group of top universities conspired to restrict financial aid to undergraduates.

Mayer Brown partner Britt Miller in Chicago, co-leader of the firm's antitrust practice and a lawyer for defendant Georgetown University, told U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly that the defense lawyers had discussed a joint filing seeking dismissal of the claims filed in January.

"We will be as efficient as possible and targeted," Miller said at a hearing earlier this week in the Northern District of Illinois federal court.

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Miller did not immediately respond to a message on Friday seeking comment about the coordination among defense lawyers and their firms. Other leading defense advocates did not return similar messages.

Karen Lent, head of the antitrust practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is defending Columbia University. Eric Mahr of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, co-head of the antitrust litigation group, is on the defense team for Massachusetts Institute of Technology. White & Case partner Mark Gidley, leader of the firm's antitrust group, is representing Vanderbilt University. Among the other schools sued are Yale University, Brown University and Northwestern University.

In all, the purported class action accuses 17 schools of participating "in a price-fixing cartel that is designed to reduce or eliminate financial aid as a locus of competition." The schools have denied any wrongdoing.

The defendant schools are members of the "568 Presidents Group," an affiliation that says it "works together in an effort to maintain a need-based financial aid system."

A message seeking comment from the group on Friday was not immediately returned.

The complaint said more than 170,000 would-be class members, who were financial aid recipients, were overcharged hundreds of millions of dollars.

The plaintiffs' lawyers include teams from the firms Berger Montague; Roche Freedman; Gilbert Litigators & Counselors; and Fegan Scott. Lawyers for the plaintiffs on Friday did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The judge this week set an April 15 deadline for the defense lawyers to file their request to dismiss the case. He declined an initial bid from the defense lawyers to pause discovery until the resolution of the filing contesting the claims.

The case is Henry v. Brown University et al, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:22-cv-00125.

Read more:

U.S. college grads sue Yale, Columbia, other schools over financial aid

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