- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Princeton University “improperly spent” more than $200 million of disbursements it received from a foundation established to train diplomats, says a report released as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the school.

Michael G. McGuire, a former Harvard finance official, prepared the report on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case of William Robertson et al. v. Princeton. It concludes that the university misspent $207 million of the $330 million it has received from the Robertson Foundation since 1961.

The original suit against Princeton in 2002 charged that it failed to honor the foundation’s “sole mission” of training students for careers in government service, particularly in the field of international relations.

Princeton has acknowledged it did not always use the money to support programs of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, but officials insist that in all but a small number of instances, the use of foundation money was appropriate.

“We know that figure is seriously inaccurate,” said Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt. “But we will not be able to provide a precise figure until our next filing in this case, which will be on March 6.”

The Robertson Foundation began 45 years ago with a contribution valued at $35 million from Charles Robertson, head of the A&P; supermarket chain, and his wife, Marie. The fund is now worth $650 million.

Its goal is to educate graduate students at Princeton’s Wilson School for diplomatic posts.

The suit brought by William Robertson and other children of the late couple asks the court to let the family use foundation money to support other institutions besides Princeton and to require the university to reimburse all improperly “diverted funds.”

In his report, Mr. McGuire provided a breakdown of the $207 million “cost impact” to the net assets of the foundation he says has been caused by Princeton’s “wrongful spending.”

He cites what he describes as “transaction categories that identify non-assignable costs, diversion of restricted funds and double charging of overhead.”

The plaintiffs point out that Princeton spent more than $195 million of the foundation’s money between 1990 and 2003, but only $26 million paid for any kind of instruction.

“Princeton charged administrative costs for the Woodrow Wilson School directly to the Robertson Foundation … while it charged the same costs indirectly to the federal government,” the McGuire report said.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Ronald Malone, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Princeton charged the foundation for building Robertson Hall in 1964, then “they assessed additional charges for depreciation, so we wound up paying for the building twice.”

Depreciation for both the original construction and a renovation of Robertson Hall were then “indirectly charged to the federal government,” according to the report.

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