Lawyer for researcher deposed in $112.5 million Duke case asks us to remove a post

We receive occasional demand letters from attorneys here at Retraction Watch. Perhaps the most memorable was one in 2013 from an attorney claiming to represent Bharat Aggarwal. That prompted Popehat’s Ken White to enlarge our vocabulary by using the word “bumptious” in a post about the letter.

To that library of letters we can now add one from Martin Weinstein, of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, on behalf of his client Monica Kraft, now of the University of Arizona and late of Duke University. Willkie Farr & Gallagher is “an elite international law firm of approximately 750 lawyers located in 12 offices in six countries.”

Duke, as Retraction Watch readers may recall, settled a False Claims Act case last year for $112.5 million following allegations about how various members of its Department of Medicine’s Pulmonary Division responded to alleged misconduct in the department beginning in 2013. As Duke acknowledged in a court filing, “Kraft was a Principal Investigator for some research projects conducted within the Pulmonary Division and was Division Chief from January 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014.”

The facts in the previous two paragraphs are, as best we can tell, all uncontested. That is also true of all of the facts in the Dec. 20, 2019 post that Weinstein requested we remove.

We cannot, unfortunately, say the same for Weinstein’s letter.

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12 thoughts on “Lawyer for researcher deposed in $112.5 million Duke case asks us to remove a post”

  1. In a previous career incarnation I worked in a law library (but I have since turned from the dark side and returned to the light side) and one of the books had a preface that said (not verbatim) the law enjoins one to tell the truth, but when someone actually does it works tirelessly to shut them up.

  2. “Kraft is a preeminent leader in the field”. I think it should be clear to those who wrote the letter, and anybody else, that this has absolutely nothing to do what happened on her watch. It would have happened if she was a leader (as suggested) or not.

    I think she should be grateful that she got away with as little damage to her reputation as she has. IMO, department chairs where fraud occurs should not only be advertised as being irresponsible on the internet, but be held financially accountable for fraud (because they signed off on who was hired, and have ultimate responsibility).

    Take it out of her retirement account, I say, instead of diluting the financial burden through the university. Then you would see real change.

    1. “IMO, department chairs where fraud occurs should not only be advertised as being irresponsible on the internet, but be held financially accountable for fraud ”

      Wow, FSI, you have to let it go man. Kraft may have been a great or indifferent administrator (who knows), but she didn’t commit any fraud afaik. Why do you have it in for her?

      But if you do, don’t go in for half measures. She is probably “deadwood” as well (to quote your comment on a different post). In that case she would float. You could dunk her in the river and find out. If she does float, then instead of just punishing her financially for having been department chair while someone else committed a fraud *that took years to discover*, you could propose to burn her as a witch. Come on, lean in!

      1. I’m not into dunking or stoning. How about whipping by a former member of ISIS with the sharpened end of a bamboo cane? That would be my preferred method of punishment for tenured faculty that go rogue. If not that, maybe a work camp of hard labor breaking rocks. They can always write review articles in their cell.

        Anyway, we must get to a place where authorities with big salaries who make crappy decisions are held accountable. Hit them in the pocketbook, and that will go far to fix the problem.

        1. FSI, great to see you. “Caning”, yes that’s certainly leaning in.

          As noted on a different thread, “make crappy decisions” assumes facts not in evidence.

          I want to ask about your own supervisor (assuming you are employed), and her financial responsibility for your errors. But it would be more interesting to ask about the people who report directly to you (again assuming you have supervisory responsibilities in your work). If one of your people goes rogue without your knowledge or permission, how much financial responsibility would you deserve to shoulder for that? Would it cost you $1000 if one of your people was caught fudging an expense report? Or $10,000 for taking kickbacks on a contract? Or $100,000 for bribing an official to get inside regulatory information? What are we talking about here?

          1. Dear Mike: I am delighted you support my idea of corporal punishment for mis-behaving faculty by individuals that are, to use your words, “well-trained”; this would keep these caners off the unemployment roles and place them (say ORI, branch of corporal punishment) where their services will be of value. This would be, IMO, NIH/ORI money well spent.

            I don’t think the slippery slope rationalization you are using applies here. The question is whether the errors are honest or not. If the errors are honest (ie, done out of incompetence), then there should be no fine paid by a supervisor, or anybody else. We already have a good system in place for correcting manuscripts/papers if they are published with honest errors.

            However, if the errors are dishonest (fraud) and cause a waste of millions of dollars of grant money than the people who hired and supervised the individuals should pay the price. The way we tell how far up the chain you go into administration is to see who signed off on the hiring of this individual.

            For example, lets say a post-doc commits fraud, and its determined that the faculty member was not aware of it, but still hired the post-doc. Then that faculty member should be financially accountable for the fraud, and not administrators (although I would like to see admins pay some fraction of the fine). If its faculty who generates the fraud, and admins were not aware of it, but hired him, then they should be held financially accountable for the fraud. Ive kind of seen this once with the NIH demanding Harvard to pay back millions for the Piero Anversa crap that was published through the years, and I cheer this action, although Anversa should be, IMO, made destitute and caned.

            Again, its all to easy now for post-docs to be thrown under the bus to protect some irresponsible faculty or admins. Once they are forced to pay a price, then we will see change.

            I would commend you if you become dean of whatever R1 institution you are at, and you would implement these changes. In short, being a hard-ass works. If I’m going to be thrown under the bus, why no you as well? Oh, because of tenure, and elites should not be treated this way? Pfft.

  3. Did Retraction Watch just give this law firm some free publicity, directly to a targeted group (researcher, professors etc.). I personally never heard of this law firm before I read this article. I would guess that most, if not all the people that know of the Duke case, had a clue what law firm represented Ms. Kraft
    They appeared to have represented Ms. Kraft well enough that she got a very good job despite the issues. And now anyone who is facing similar legal issues will have the name of a lawyer who seemed to do well for their client.

    1. Maybe. If I was a potential client I’d be a bit concerned that:

      1) the firm apparently believes requesting an article be withdrawn with zero attempt to point to factual inaccuracies would ever work, and

      2) that *maybe* the real purpose was fishing for publicity for the firm at the cost of re-airing the supposedly reputation-damaging material of an existing client.

      1. Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence, or in this case: form filling. It’s just a jobsworth lawyer doing what lawyers to.

  4. The attorney’s letter refers to a complaint from a “disgruntled” employee.

    Referring to people as “disgruntled” is a classic way to put down whistleblowers, commonly used by employees/corporations who don’t want to address the substance of complaints.

    The word is a red flag for me.

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