Gordon Caplan Gordon Caplan of Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Photo: Carmen Natale/ALM

Gordon Caplan, the New York-based co-chair of international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher and The American Lawyer’s 2018 Dealmaker of the Year, has been named as a defendant in a nationwide college admissions scandal.

In a press conference held Tuesday, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling named Caplan among nearly 50 defendants charged for their alleged role in a nationwide scheme to manipulate the U.S. college admissions system. Among the defendants: Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman—wife of actor William H. Macy—best known for her roles on “Desperate Housewives” and “Transamerica.”

Participants from several states—including Florida, New York, Texas, California and Connecticut—allegedly faked test scores, took college exams for students, bribed coaches and created fake profiles to improve applicant’s chances of gaining admission by making them appear to be athletes. According to Massachusetts prosecutors, wealthy parents hired defendant William Singer to bolster their children’s chances of college admission.

As for Caplan, the complaint against him alleges he gave $75,000 to an organization that paid bribes to college officials and others involved in the scheme.

Read the allegations against Caplan, beginning on page 22 


Court filings claim the attorney unknowingly communicated with a participant covertly working with investigators and asked for for assurance that the scheme worked. According to the charging document, that participant told Caplan the group had served nearly 800 other families, and the two allegedly shared a laugh over the arrangement’s repeated success.

Willkie’s website lists Caplan as the is firm’s co-chairman, a member of its executive committee, and partner in its private equity practice group and corporate and financial services department. Its bio touts Caplan’s experience “representing equity sponsors as well as public and private companies on a spectrum of corporate matters, including private equity financings, public securities offerings” and more.

Caplan has also garnered prestigious industry nods. In March 2018, he was named to The American Lawyer’s “Dealmakers of the Year” list for his representation of Hudson’s Bay Co. in “a series of interlocking cross-border transactions that breathed new life” into the company’s business.

But his latest turn in the spotlight came at a press conference by law enforcement officials from the Internal Revenue Service, FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District of Massachusetts alleges that between 2011 and 2018, parents “paid approximately $25 million to bribe coaches and university administrators to designate their children as purported recruited athletes, or as members of other favored admissions categories, thereby facilitating the children’s admission to those universities.”

It alleges defendant Singer used his connections to athletic programs and coaches around the country via  his companies The Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation in Newport Beach, California. Besides providing Singer a front for bribery scheme, prosecutors allege these organizations o facilitated money laundering.

An assistant who answered Caplan’s phone number at the firm on Tuesday said only “no comment.” A spokeswoman for Willkie wasn’t available to comment. The firm’s chairman, Steven Gartner, did not immediately reply to an email message seeking comment about Caplan.