Investigation by 2 state AGs continues

Emerson College has reached an agreement with attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts to settle an investigation into its student lending practices, according to a financial report from an independent auditor hired by the college.

The college “believes it has reached an agreement in principle to settle this matter, and has expensed the related costs, which were not material to the 2008 financial results,” according to a copy of the report.

Vice President of Administration and Finance David Ellis said there is no signed agreement, and would not say whether negotiations were in the works. Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen acknowledged the investigation and said an announcement would be made when an agreement is reached. He did not indicate when the investigation might conclude.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s deputy press secretary would neither confirm nor deny the investigation. New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office did not return a request for comment.

The report stated the two attorneys general offices have been conducting the investigation since June 2007 and have requested documents going as far back as 2001.

Emerson found itself in hot water last year when Cuomo accused the college, among others, of inappropriately receiving kickbacks from student lending organizations. Former Dean of Enrollment Daniel Pinch was fired in June 2007 amid the accusations for being a paid consultant for Collegiate Funding Services, a student loan consolidation company promoted on the college’s Web site. Pinch received $36,000 in consulting fees, according to a Senate report.

Director of Financial Aid Michelle Smith, the other administrator named by the Senate, took part in what the report called a “lavish trip” paid for by the Citizen’s Bank Education Advisory Board, of which she was a member. The college has since implemented an ethics policy for staff members outlining what is deemed inappropriate outside employment.